The Design Research Unit (DRU) was formed in 1943 by poet and art critic Herbert Read, advertising entrepreneur Marcus Brumwell, architect Misha Black, and graphic designer Milner Gray. It was acquired by architectural practice Scott Brownrigg in 2004.

The firm’s founding documents fittingly claimed, “Like every aspect of modern industry, design should be a co-operative activity.” Here’s a small selection of design work from the renowned collective.

Ilford logo DRU
Ilford Limited (photographic materials), 1966.
DRU book
Spread from the Design Research Unit monograph by Michelle Cotton.
Tarmac logo DRU
Tarmac (the seven t’s logo), 1964.
British Rail logo DRU
British Rail (double arrow), 1965.

DRU’s most well-known logo is for British Rail. In 1965, British Railways, as it was then known, engaged DRU to deliver its soon-to-be-ubiquitous mark. The logo, evoking two train tracks with arrows pointing in opposite directions, was created by designer Gerry Barney (who also worked on the design of the Guinness harp).

Design Research Unit book

Design Research Unit book

Design Research Unit (DRU) Michelle Cotton
The agency’s manifesto on the cover of Michelle Cotton’s monograph.

Design Research Unit

Design Research Unit: the firm that branded Britain, on The Guardian.
DRU, on Wikipedia.
From bombs to brands, on Eye Magazine.

Header image courtesy of Mike Ashworth on Flickr.

Share a thought