Thousands of Texans travel between Dallas and Houston. It is a ten-hour round-trip drive on the massively gridlocked I-45. This highway hosts outdated bridges and service stations. It is in dire need of repair, redesign, and rebuilding. And even with this restoration, the highway would continue to engender traffic. The Texas Bullet Train is an opportunity to revitalize the community within and between these two great metropolises.
This project started with a small group of people who shared a vision. We helped them visualize that vision by creating a name and visual identity that would support their fundraising and communication efforts. Their new branding needed to strike a delicate balance. “On the one hand, we are a startup. On the other hand we are a $15 billion infrastructure process. We are a fresh, state-of-the-art technology. But we are also a safe investment, like a freight train,” Katie Kaufman, former VP of the group.
The identity needed to connect people just like the train aims to do. It needed to tap into the fierce state pride that distinguishes Texas. We proposed a name that would do just that: Texas Central Railway
We started this transportation branding project by creating a logo that demonstrates the project’s speed, power, and innovation. The Texas state silhouette is bisected by a red stroke marking the train’s route. To capture the essence of Texas, without relying on the traditional stereotypes of hats and cowboy boots, we utilized the dark blue, red, and white colors of the state flag. The brand identity is simple and powerful, mobilizing stakeholders around this exciting project.
When asked about the impact of TCP’s branding on fundraising, Katie Kaufman says, “It’s instantly recognizable.” She continues, “When we put our documents in front of [investors] I always felt confident…Even our business cards are beautiful.” A sophisticated, solid visual identity was especially important for TCR given the track record of high-speed rail projects in America so far. “There have been several high-speed rail projects in this country that have a lot of hype and no delivery.” In Texas in particular, there were two failed projects in the 1990s. “We needed to be memorable. A solid company.”
Throughout the process, communicating with the Texas community was vital. Holly Reed came onto the team in December 2015 as the Managing Director of External Affairs after 25 years of experience at AT&T. She oversees public policy, government affairs, outreach, and communication. When asked about her main challenges at TCR, Holly says, “A project like the Texas bullet train is a big idea. And one of our challenges is to bring that to life so that people who are not familiar with a high-speed train…can understand why this is such a great opportunity for Texas.”
Building a roster of supporting organizations, associations, and cities that “enthusiastically support the project” is one of the great victories of Holly’s work. Connecting Texas’s support with broader interest is also important. “It is a project on the international stage, of national importance, and uniquely Texan.”
Where does the project stand now? “We are building the train every single day,” Holly says. There are 200-300 people working on the project, designing interiors, doing environmental work, working with landowners. One thing is clear: Big ideas like the Texas Bullet Train are worth the hard work it takes to see them in motion.