Thursday, November 30, 2023

A Graphic Design Historical past of the London Underground

A historical past of the London Underground’s graphic design together with Frank Decide’s design path, Edward Johnston’s typography & Harry Beck’s Tube Map

The next is an essay I wrote concerning the London Underground’s graphic design historical past again in college. Although the essay dates again to 2007, it’s clearly nonetheless related because it covers the Tube’s historical past by graphic design.

This 12 months marks the a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the London Tube’s first underground railway. To have fun, I’m making the next essay accessible as a downloadable picture which may be folded right into a small booklet in the identical model because the revolutionary Tube map. Click on right here to view the downloadable model.

* * *

London’s Underground system of the twentieth century marked a brand new period for each metropolis planning & transportation in addition to up to date design & aesthetics. With Frank Decide’s revolutionary modifications to the transport system and Harry Beck’s map design, the Underground frequently was on the forefront of contemporary, up to date graphic design.

london underground history

The Underground’s designers of the early twentieth century did greater than add fairly posters and simplify the system; they revolutionized city design in a sensible manner with purposeful functions. The Underground — the world’s first underground electrical railway system — opened in 1890.

Frank Decide (1878-1941) supplied steering and inspiration throughout the Underground’s early historical past which put the London Transport system forward of many in new advertising and marketing and graphic design.

Beneath Frank Decide’s path as Chief Government of London Transport, a brand new emblem and typeface was commissioned. From these new designs got here a necessity for a brand new map — one which modified the model of transport maps throughout the globe. Self-marketing turned as outstanding and necessary as promoting did, and the Underground system as a complete redefined public transportation and recreated the business as a viable selection for modern graphic design.

Frank Decide – Creator of the London Underground Design

Frank Decide, as Chief Government of London Transport between 1913 and 1938, commissioned the well-known font and emblem for the Underground model. He started his lengthy profession at London Transport as a statistician and legal professional.

His criticisms of the Underground’s promotional efforts ultimately led to publicity being added to his duties. This led to quick modifications within the promoting efforts at stations and on platforms (see Posters).

By the top of Frank Decide’s profession on the Underground, he had helped handle and oversee new designs in station signage, station structure, product design and even prepare and bus design. Inside designs for station platforms and the buses had been rigorously and strategically developed to permit for optimum consolation and industrial aesthetic.

Decide’s design patronage all through his profession enabled the Underground to turn into a stable and simple chief in transportation design. The Underground “turned a global mannequin for company design duty” in accordance with Megg’s Historical past of Graphic Design.

Promoting on the Underground: Historic Posters

Frank Decide, although missing any inventive coaching, had a powerful sense of design and a ardour for artwork. When he turned in control of publicity at London Transport in 1908, he created house for transportation data and publicity at station entrances.

Along with designating particular poster boards for promotional efforts by the Underground system, he additionally cleared house for Tube posters and maps and pushed advertisers’ posters into grid-like areas inside stations and on platforms. By decreasing the litter at station entrances and offering particular areas for promotional posters, Decide single-handedly created the Underground as a pacesetter in graphic design.

Revolutionary in addition to rising artists had been referred to as in to create promotional posters encouraging Londoners to journey on the Underground, but additionally to make use of the system for particular causes. Posters within the Twenties marketed new stations and what could possibly be discovered there in makes an attempt to drive visitors to new locations for brand spanking new causes in off-peak and weekend journey occasions.

Decide’s influences on poster design within the Underground established a showcase of the numerous totally different rising artwork kinds of the twentieth century. Within the Nineteen Thirties, Decide went as far as to arrange public exhibitions of artwork and graphic design within the Charing Cross Underground station ticket corridor. Well-known artists featured all through Decide’s patronage included Austin Cooper, Edward McKnight-Kauffer (who produced the primary Cubist poster), Man Ray, Hans Schleger and numerous others.

Edward Johnston’s Typeface

The take a look at of the goodness of a factor is its health to be used. If it fails on this primary take a look at, no quantity of ornamentation or end will make it any higher; it is going to solely make it dearer, extra silly. — Frank Decide

Decide thus commissioned Edward Johnston to create an unique, patented typeface in 1916. Decide’s tips for Johnston had been for a daring however easy and distinctive lettering utilizing historic typography as a mannequin; although the brand new typeface wanted to be indisputably twentieth century design.

Johnson’s sans-serif typeface created amongst these obvious contradictions options strokes of equal weight, classical proportions (primarily based on Roman inscriptions) and a reductive design of easy magnificence.

His elementary and timeless design options an M which is an ideal sq. of 45-degree diagonal strokes and an O that could be a good circle. Johnston has been referred to as the daddy of the fashionable revival of lettering. His model helped revive calligraphy and influenced his pupil Eric Gill — the typeface designer famend for Gill Sans.

Johnston’s typeface for the Underground is taken into account to be the primary trendy sans serif face, a precursor for the remainder of the twentieth century which was closely reliant upon trendy and post-modern design.

Harry Beck’s Map – an icon of London Underground design

Harry Beck (1903-1974) was a draughtsman working for the Underground. Impressed by electrical circuit diagrams, he developed a schematic map for the Underground transport system making it simpler to learn and distinguish between the quite a few strains and stations.

His design was a right away and immediate success and has turn into an iconic design image for town of London. On a BBC Tradition Present in 2006, Beck’s design was voted second to the Concorde because the “public’s favorite design icons.”

London Tube Map

The Tube Map

The primary public transport maps of London had been developed and produced by the Metropolitan District Railways exhibiting the place vacationers might change strains and join with different transport methods. These maps had been geographic, exhibiting Underground strains and stations in relationship to road plans above floor.

In 1931, Harry Beck tried to resolve the issues of earlier geographic maps (due to their geographical nature, it was laborious to decipher extra central areas on a sprawling, large-scale map). As a substitute of counting on a road plan, Beck compressed the outlying areas the place there have been fewer stations and expanded the central London space the place many stations had been crowded collectively on the older maps.

Utilizing horizontal, vertical and 45-degree diagonals, Beck simplified and color-coded the transport system in a particular and recognizable manner. Stations had been marked as dots and interchanges as diamonds or full circles.

Beck’s preliminary map was rejected on the grounds that it was too radical, however after making varied modifications, the map was printed in 1933 as a pocket-map trial model. It was an immediate success and has survived a whole bunch of revisions over the previous 80 years. At present’s trendy design remains to be largely reliant upon Beck’s 1933 model.

Advertising - London Underground Tube
Londoners are uncovered to 1000’s of distractions all through a single day, and the Underground’s emblem wanted to face out among the many litter

The Underground Brand

Commissioned by Frank Decide throughout his years as Chief Government of the London Transport system, the emblem has come to be a logo of not simply the Underground, however London itself. The brand was commissioned at the same time as your complete redesign of the Underground. The font selection for the emblem was one of the vital necessary selections for the redesign.

Decide needed the signal representing the Underground (known as the roundel) to be inconspicuous however recognizable. Londoners are uncovered to 1000’s of distractions all through a single day, and the Underground’s emblem wanted to face out among the many litter, however not be intrusive due to its fixed prominence in Londoners’ lives.

When Decide commissioned Edward Johnston to design and create a brand new typeface, the concept was to alter your complete branding of the Underground, so Johnston redid the roundel emblem as properly.

His new model of the Tube’s emblem used his new typeface (Johnston’s Railway Sort) on a single blue bar in entrance of a red-outlined circle. The older emblem had been a stable pink circle (designed by Frank Decide), however Johnston’s new design within the early twentieth century (and nonetheless used at present with some refinements made in 1972) matched properly with the reductive design of the typography featured on all Underground station signage.

The Underground emblem has turn into a serious a part of London’s historical past and can be a serious industrial image featured on a vast variety of industrial merchandise.

* * *

Obtain a replica of this graphic design historical past of the London Underground as a printable brochure.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles