Deutsche Bahn is known as the largest transport company in Central Europe and the second-largest in the world in Germany. This state-owned company was incorporated in 1994 after the merger of two rail carriers that belonged to the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. When the west and east united into a single state, their railways also became one. A DB was created to manage this infrastructure.
Meaning and History
The Deutsche Bahn brand has long ceased to be associated only with the railway industry. It is engaged in freight and passenger transport of all types and serves about 12 million people every day. It’s DB Regio division operates bus fleets, provides car sharing and bicycle rental services. So the company has already gone beyond the train operator and raised to a new level of mobility.
All Deutsche Bahn vehicles are adorned with the logo: on the side of the rail, on the back of cars, and the trunk of bicycles. The well-known symbol called “Biscuit” was inherited from the Federal Republic of Germany railway and changed several times. The current version appeared relatively recently, but DB’s corporate designers, together with hired specialists, tried to preserve the corporate identity’s traditional elements.
1920 – 1949
The symbol of Germany is the eagle, which was used at that time on all the country’s official symbols. Deutsche Reichsbahn used this symbol in its logo, in a slightly different interpretation, placing its inscription in a circle.
1949 – 1994
Until 1994, the railway network in eastern Germany was called the Deutsche Reichsbahn and used a simple emblem with green lettering. In the center were two large letters “DR” with rectangular serifs. They were placed in a DEUTSCHE ring (top) and REICHSBAHN (bottom), separated by two dots. This sign appeared even before World War II, but at that time, the main one was a yellow and black seal with an eagle.
1949 – 1994
In 1949, the state company Deutsche Bundesbahn was formed, which controlled rail transport in Germany’s Federal Republic. Its logo, which received the unofficial nickname “Biscuit,” became the basis for Deutsche Bahn’s similar symbol. The original version looked like three concentric rectangles with rounded sides. The geometric shapes on the inside and outside were black. A white frame separated them. In the middle was the abbreviation “DB,” which stood for Deutsche Bundesbahn.
The famous “Biscuit” was developed by the German woodcarver, graphic artist, and painter Eduard Ege in 1955. Until that time, passenger transport was decorated with a similar sign with the letters “DB”: it was applied to the back and front bumper of buses.
1994 – today
In 1994, Deutsche Bahn was incorporated. It appeared due to the connection of two parts of Germany and, accordingly, two railway networks. The new organization inherited the logo from Deutsche Bundesbahn – albeit in a modernized form.
The transport organization contacted Weidemann studio to give the classic emblem a modern look and paid 200,000 Deutsche Marks for the work. The public criticized this decision: the amount seemed very large to people, especially when the media accidentally “increased” it to 1.2 million. The company gained more than it lost because the number of colored spots on the logo decreased. This has saved hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Marks through lower costs for screen printing ink and label embroidery thread.
Graphic designer Kurt Weidemann was responsible for the visual design. He made the lettering “DB” red and placed it inside a white rectangle with a similar red border. The corners of the geometric shape remained rounded, and the serifs on the letters disappeared.
Until the mid-2000s, the brand was not holistic: almost every Deutsche Bahn subsidiary had its logo, and there were no common design standards. Erik Spiekermann undertook to correct the situation. He redesigned the icon and added a black ‘BAHN’ lettering to the icon, which he co-designed with Christian Schwartz. Spiekermann received a prestigious government award for the work done, covering the creation of corporate culture.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The red graphic sign with the abbreviation “DB” provides brand recognition. This is an old element of visual identity: it appeared a long time ago, back in the days when the Deutsche Bundesbahn trains traveled on the railways. Several upgrades have given the rounded rectangle a modern look, but the distinctive shape and associated nickname “Biscuit” have not gone away.
Typographers Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz have created a font family for DB called DB Type. The typeface used in the logo is designed based on Garamond. Moreover, the designers turned the serif into a grotesque and strengthened it, made it proportional, and adapted it for all the needs of the transport company. The result of their joint work was awarded the Gold German Federal Design Award in 2007.
The deep shade of Red (Pigment) (# EC1B2D) is the basis of the Deutsche Bahn brand identity. This color is used for the brand’s emblem, high-speed trains, buses, bicycles, cars, signs, and even the official DB website. For maximum contrast, red is paired with white and black.