10 transit and mobility services that illustrate effective branding
Best practices and tips for branding and logo design with examples from mobility services around the world.
Consider the London Underground and its iconic logo: When you see the red circle with a horizontal blue line running through it, you immediately know the who, what, where and why. This simple image instills in the observer a sense of time and place, and has a practical purpose of directing users towards the service. You don’t need to be a 130-year-old organization to craft a visual identity that accomplishes the same. But when you’re launching a new brand like a ride hailing enterprise, or diversifying your current offer with something like microtransit, you’ll want to create a logo that connects with your customers, drives affinity and encourages useability.
These ten mobility and transit services do just that. While some may be significantly smaller than the London Underground, they nevertheless punch far above their weight when it comes to creating a brand that’s consistent, legible and instantly recognizable.
With its coiled ribbon, the logo of Osaka’s metro demonstrates how a seemingly simple design can have multiple layers. Looking at it head-on, you can clearly see the ‘M’ representing ‘metro.’ However when you view the logo in 3D and from the side, you notice that the circular ribbon also forms an ‘O’ for ‘Osaka.’ According to the Nippon Design Center, the firm which designed the image, the dynamic spiral “represents the energetic city of Osaka and the dynamism to continue running,” dovetailing with the overall brand concept of: “Change to Run. Run and Change.”
Takeaway: Embed meaning into your logo for a lasting impression.
In a world of primary colors, neutral shades, or muted tones, La Wawa bus service goes bold. Its logo, a white modern typeface against a vibrant purple background that’s accented with orange and yellow, is hard to miss. Standing on the street, riders are sure to always see the bus coming, which complements La Wawa’s mission to provide reliable, safe and traceable transportation options.
Takeaway: Increase brand recognition through bold colors.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
New York City, New York
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is one of the world’s most iconic mobility brands. The transit corporation's logo features the ‘M’ bleeding out of a circle, with the ‘T’ and ‘A’ written on an angle in receding perspective, giving off the feeling of a train rushing by —a perfect image to depict one of the world’s busiest bus and metro systems, and the bustling city of New York.
Takeaway: Incorporate the context of your service into its branding.
A glance at Earth Rides’ Instagram or website and their mission is clear: to provide eco-friendly ride hailing services. It’s a simple but impactful message that they don’t overcomplicate, relying on their staple blue and images of electric vehicles to create a strong brand that leads with their values. In addition, Earth seems to have a clear grasp on who their target market is, featuring millennials of all walks in their promotional materials.
Takeaway: Put your values front and center.
At first glance, the logo for Milton Transit might not say much — the bus service is represented by a simple wordmark (a logo that just features the company name). But by using a bold typeface and keeping the spacing between the letters in the word ‘transit’ fairly tight, it imparts a sense of unity, while still remaining easily legible even at a distance or as a thumbnail.
The logo uses the same typeface and typography as the town of Milton’s logo, thereby creating a direct link between the two and adding legitimacy to the transit line.
Takeaway: Create legitimacy through visual association.
Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
The Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, which overlooks the Strait of Georgia to the west and majestic mountain ranges to the east, is considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. So it makes sense that ride hailing startup Coastal Rides would incorporate its surroundings into its visual brand identity. The company’s logo is modern and playful, a nod to the types of riders it hopes to attract. Featuring a sun setting below the waves against a bright orange sky, Coastal Rides communicates that it’s not some outside player but a member of the community, which is sure to resonate with locals.
Takeaway: Use branding as an opportunity to connect the service to its location.
Durham Region Transit
A branding best practice is timelessness. You don’t want to have to undergo a rebranding in a few years because your logo encapsulates outdated design trends. In this regard, the logo for regional public transit operator Durham Region Transit, hits the mark. Featuring simple typography, a classic green and black combo that never goes out of style and a forward-pointing arrow traveling in a loop, it will convey the idea of transit just as effectively in ten years as it does today.
Takeaway: Go for a timeless look by asking yourself if the thought behind your logo will still feel relevant five or ten years from now
While design decisions should ideally remain relevant for as long as possible, originality also goes a long way in creating a memorable brand. Sun On-Demand's staggered, all-caps lettering anchored by a blazing cutout of a sun against a tangerine background feels a little retro — sort of what you might come to expect from the title screen of a 1950’s sitcom. It’s fun, warm and inviting, which are perfect qualities to communicate for an on-demand transit operation.
Takeaway: While you want to make sure that your logo adheres to basic design principles of useability, you can dare to be original when it comes to branding.
In all its visual material, Niagara Region Transit (NRT) On-Demand places significant emphasis on the vehicles it uses to run its on-demand microtransit service. The vehicle—a Toyota Sienna—is depicted on the stickers, pamphlets, posters and instructional postcards the transit agency distributes. This is smart branding because it immediately gives people an idea of what to look for when they book a ride with NRT On-Demand. In addition, while the Niagara Region uses an Aegean blue in its marketing materials, NRT On-Demand relies on a complementary but distinct teal, associating the service with the municipality while also ensuring the brand stands out.
Takeaway: Emphasize the product/service in promotional materials.
Denton County Transit Agency
Denton County, Texas
With punchy greens and yellows and bold Gill Sans font, the Denton County Transit Agency (DCTA) logo is easily recognizable and legible whether you’re viewing it from a distance or in thumbnail form. It also shows that simple can be effective, while still engaging the senses: the italics and swooping, yellow underline provide a sense of movement and speed.
Takeaway: Don’t overlook the power of simplicity when it comes to logo design.
At the end of the day, when building your brand, you’ll want to keep the basics in mind: are you being consistent with colors, text, imagery and icons across mediums? Is your logo legible? Can people comprehend your logo on a moving bus, on a small screen or on a pamphlet? If there is cohesion in your brand and people can easily identify and understand it, you’ve got a solid foundation. From there, you can flex your creative muscle to find ways to stand out from the crows and connect with your customers.
Whether you already have a brand logo or are still in the process of creating visuals, you can sign up today for the Spare Rider app: an easy solution that lets your riders book and track rides. Check out this form to learn more about the assets required for set up. Need a little bit of help? Spare can guide you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.