From its earliest days attempts were made at a map – no
easy task. It was made up of many companies operating many different lines. The
first Chief Executive of the London Transport Passenger Board had to tie it all
together. Frank Pick had worked for the London Underground for most of his
life. He set out to revolutionise London Transport through design. Design could
bring unity. He had the logo redesigned as the heart of a successful corporate
identity. It was the work of Edward johnston. In 1915, Pick had employed
johnston to design a new simplified typeface. The Sans Serif exemplified the
virtues of modern design. It was clean-lined and efficient-qualities Pick
wanted to see imposed on the system as a whole. Pick was very concerned to
present the Underground system as rational, scientific, and efficient in its
management. One of the ways he tried to do that was through the architecture of
the Underground stations. He chose Charles Holden to design the new extension
stations, particularly on the Piccadilly and Central Lines. Holden’s approach
was to use a kind of architecture which would be understood as rational and
modern – a kind of European modernism. He realised, or was instructed, that the
stations must be recognisable as belonging to the same species. If one saw an
Underground station, it should be recognisable as part of the Underground
system. In the same year that Holden’s new stations were opened, 1933, came
another breakthrough. The LPTB introduced a new, revolutionary Underground map.
Like the new stations, it was uncluttered and functional. It was there to
convey information efficiently, form followed function. History has tended to
credit Frank Pick with a design milestone. Infact, it wasn’t Pick’s idea. A new
map hadn’t been commissioned. It has been presented out of the blue, and the
Board turned it down as being too strange and revolutionary. The map was
produced not by a graphic designer, but by an unknown, 29-year-old engineering
draughtsman at London Transport.


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