The designer Allen Fleming deduced that the one thing common to all areas of CN operation was motion — the movement of men, materials and messages from one point to another and what better way to express this than with a continuous line? Point number one, above, led to the conclusion that the symbol should be built around the letters CN rather than CNR since the R stands for railways and CN is so much more than a railway. Anyway, the R has no meaning in French.
The "single thickness line” method of drawing was selected because symbols so constructed have a durability and timelessness unmatched by other drawing styles. Natural forms, such as the maple leaf were ruled out because they are incompatible with the mechanized giant the new trademark was meant to express. Legibility, memorability, ease of reproduction and easy recognition are all strong points of the new CN design.
The objective now is to establish schemes and patterns for the appearance of every object used by CN in providing it’s services to the public. The actual implementation of these designs will take years, but all the time the company will be working towards a uniformity and consistency hitherto unknown. I hope that this explanation will make it clear to the reader that this design was not the whim of a moment, but was carefully thought out with specific goals in mind. The principal aim is to provide a better climate of acceptance for the services which the company has to offer. The redesign program should help the sales force improve CN’s competitive position, and at the same time, demonstrate to employees that management is convinced that there is a future in the railway business."
|Drawing from “Keeping Track” The in-house CNR publication.|
Period drawing shows arrangement of the Canadian National trademark design as it has been applied incorrectly to three hundred new boxcars in 1960. Future applications of the paint scheme shown embodied the design on the right and the specifications on the left in accord with North American practice.
Update June 2018 The subject is well covered in a new documentary by Greg Durrell; Design Canada