As the Underground revels in its sesquicentennial (150th) year we’ve seen some of its greatest design icons celebrated – see related stories.
Now a new book reveals how this design philosophy can be attributed to the stewardship of London transport’s first chief executive Frank Pick, who recognised the social and civic value of art and design and how it could improve Londoners’ lives.
Pick commissioned publicity posters by Paul Nash, Edward Bawden, Graham Sutherland, and Edward McKnight Kauffer, upholstered fabrics by Marion Dorn and the Piccadilly line extension by architect Charles Holden.
It’s worth noting that moquette fabrics designed by the likes of Dorn have become so desirable that the London Transport Museum now sells them as soft furnishings for the home.
Perhaps Pick’s greatest achievement was to steer and build a recognisable brand, commissioning calligrapher Edward Johnston to create a typeface for the London Underground, and principally to re-draw the roundel symbol that we know and recognise today.
The much-lauded Tube Map, designed by Harry Beck in 1931 came to be under Pick’s tenure, and is explained in all its glory.
The book makes a case for influence of Pick’s legacy on the likes of the look of the Jubilee Line, the Crossrail project and the Heatherwick Studio designed New Bus for London.
There are plenty of stunning photographs of identity development, Becks map sketches, Holden’s Deco towers, and hundreds of posters reflecting the illustration styles of the day.
It is published by the V&A, written by Oliver Green, former head curator of the London Transport Museum, and designed by Webb & Webb.
The stunning cover has been adapted from Alan Rogers poster, Speed Underground, 1930.
Frank Pick’s London: Art, Design and the Modern City is published in 4 November by V&A Publishing, priced £25