Fine art and commercial design – then and now

Railroad company logos through time

The first North American railroads were built 50 years before the first railroad logo was trademarked. Today, as the result of mergers and bankruptcies there are only eleven Class I railroads operating in the United States and Canada.

via Railroad company logo design evolution by Christian Annyas


Amtrak’s 1971 logo looks too chunky to me. It is dated, not modern, unlike when it was introduced.

The current Amtrak logo is sleek. It doesn’t look out-of-date now. Even after another 10 or 20 years go by, it might not be past its prime.

Bangor and Aroostook

Newer designs are not necessarily better than their predecessors. Classic vintage logos can be more enduring than trendy looks that are strongly associated with styles from a particular time and place. This 1936 B&A logo (maybe signage?) was elegant.

B&A transitioned to symbolic logos in 1973. Language-agnostic representation was considered cosmopolitan and more inclusive. This particular design, see below, attempts to capture the heightened environmental awareness and earth-friendly green messaging of the 1970s. Unfortunately, it is so minimalist that it is a better match for a water treatment facility than a railroad!


Some things DO improve over time!

CSX’s 1986 logo only had the three letters C S X in black font on a white background. Around 2005, it was changed to a more lively version, while preserving the original typeface. The newer logo is bold and contemporary. I especially like that it is a compromise between realism and representation. The four rail car wheels are symbolic but clearly identifiable, with just enough lettering to reinforce CSX brand name recognition.

Evolution of pointillism

I am fond of pointillism. Pointillism was completely novel when it debuted in the final years of the 19th century in France. It was considered modern and scientific because of the precision that could be achieved. My favorite pointillist painting is the most well-known, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1884 – 1886).

For anyone interested in pointillism, particularly in the evolution of Seurat’s famous painting, the Art Institute of Chicago has a chronology and explanation page about La Grande Jatte. Seurat painted an Impressionist “first draft” of La Grande Jatte, two years prior to his famous pointillist version.

Pointillism without the paint

La Grande Jatte is amenable to further transformation. Nearly 100 years after Seurat completed his “final draft”, La Grande Jatte accommodated the vision of another artist. Milton Glaser used a different technique, but preserved La Grande Jatte as representational rather than abstract art.

Milton Glaser after Seurat (1977) captured the essence of Seurat’s pointillism, without using any paint at all!

Glaser replaces the original’s dots with Push Pin-style thin black lines and broad swaths of bright, flat color …

Dots were removed, and lines took over. I like it, but I prefer Seurat’s original.

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