11 January 2009

RATP: Paris' Romantic Transit Logo

1900.Can a logo be romantic? Can a transit company logo have romantic aspirations? If you are the RATP of greater Paris, France, I think it can.

Transit companies, which tend to bind communities on basic level, strive for a sort of meta-identification. Our own TriMet is a good example. The current logo, which appears to be three crescents nestling together in a graphic menae-a-trois, neatly references the name (which itself is a token representing a much larger name) and the concept of serving three connected polities.

Which crescent you think represents your metropolitan Portland county is an exercise left, of course, to the reader.

Now, if I can take us off on a tangent, Paris is an amazingly small piece of land for the amount of economic, strategic, and cultural influence it has. The area the French capital covers within its corporate boundaries is only about 34 square miles, or a tiny bit smaller than the area within the city limits of Salem; it would fit into Portland a little more than four times over, and eyeballing a map suggests that the city is barely over four miles wide at its widest point (the greater Paris "sprawl" covers more than 1,000 square miles, but around there, when we say a city's name, we mean within the city limits, not metro area, which a lot of people think. As long as we're digressing, it's real cozy within the Boulevard Peripherique: almost 2.2 million people live within those 34 square miles. Howdy, Neighbor! (or better, Allo, voisin!)).

I did mention the Boulevard Peripherique, which is the circular highway that follows the bounds of Paris, limiting it physically as well as jurisdictionally. That points us in the direction that I want to take us. Check out this simplified map of Paris, nicked from the site Parisnet.com:

Pay special attention to the Boulevard (the circular highway picked out in red and the sweep of the Seine River as it flows into, through and out.

Got it? Okay, let's get to the metro.

The RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, or RATP, which translates to "Autonomous Operator of Paris Transport", I'm told, is the transit operator for Greater Paris. Now, when you have a city that is renowned for its passion in arts, in history, in romance, and in ... well, passion, and is personified as female, how can you combine all this thought into a simple, memorable, and elegant mark?

Well, here's the RATP's logo. Let the reader judge:

Is it not nifty? The Boulevard Peripherique has been graphically simplified into a teal circle. The Seine traces a familiar route, but a few small kinks have been added, giving the result of a profile that seems decidedly feminine. The face looks up, seemingly in expectation and hope. The two forms combine to express the unique feminine personality of Paris, and the cool colors with a soft pastel hint evoke the artistic and emotional. And, despite the graphical changes, the general geographical layout of the city is still suggested.

I find it a deft combination of romance and apt and fashionable design.

You can't get any better than that, at least as far as goes with Paris.

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