Designing London

Design posters

When travelling on the Underground, are you aware of all the designs that surround you? 

From the instantly recognisable roundel to the internal mechanisms of the escalator, there are both eye-catching and hidden design elements spread throughout the system.

This exhibition explores the seen and unseen designs of the Underground that deliver a better experience for passengers and a safe and efficient transport system.

Did you know?

You can also purchase print-to-order copies of posters from our online shop - just click Visit our Poster Shop from any poster collection record.

Poster; The seen; at Londons service, by James Fitton, 1948

The seen

James Fitton, 1948

Fitton’s colourful poster was one of two themed ‘pairs’. The other was called ‘Behind the seen’. The text panel that accompanied this poster reminded Londoners of features of their transport system they could see and be proud of, including clean trains, friendly staff and the familiar bullseye.

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The end of the line for litter

Richard Bird Associates, 1988

Here the hidden authority of the Underground is used to influence passenger behaviour in a campaign against litter. Bins were removed from station platforms for several years as a security risk, but have since been reintroduced.

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We don't want to make a meal of it

London Underground, 1992

Creating contrast is an effective technique in graphic design. Here the anti-social practice of eating on the Tube is addressed. A huge and brightly coloured hamburger dominates the plain silver carriage. The rhyme is humorous, but makes a serious point.

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Are you looking for ticket inspectors?

Steven Appleby, 1996

Can you see the inspector? This engaging cartoon invites you to linger and makes the poster more memorable. Images are often more effective than text in the communication of rules and regulations.

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The lure of the Underground

Alfred Leete, 1927

Alfred Leete is best known for his commanding First World War recruitment poster ‘Your country needs you’. This humorous poster promotes a different message but in a similarly powerful way, showing the Underground as an irresistible force, drawing people in.

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Tile motifs on the Victoria line

London Transport, 1969

When the Victoria line opened in 1969, it featured individually designed platform tiles as part of the overall design. Each station had its own unique pattern, which reflected the history of the local area. You can still enjoy these today.

Poster; Sixty years passenger service for the capital, by Lynn Trickett and Brian Webb, 1993

Sixty year passenger service for the capital

Lynn Trickett and Brian Webb, 1993

This collage poster was commissioned to celebrate London Transport’s 60th anniversary. It highlights the many and innovative design elements that made the organisation internationally famous. It also features the staff that kept London moving.

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Signs of our time

Belinda Betts, 1997

The bright and vibrant colours of the Underground lines and the iconic Johnston typeface are combined here in a patchwork of familiar signs and instructions.

Artwork; The New Piccadilly Circus Station, by P G Davis, 1925

The New Piccadilly Circus Station

P G Davis, 1925

Posters have often been used to publicise new station designs for Underground. Here, the complexity of the refurbished Piccadilly Circus can be seen. 

This diagrammatic representation of the station by P G Davis gives a cut-away view looking down onto the booking hall showing the escalators, ticket offices and station shops as well as the street-level layout of Piccadilly Circus.

Even buildings such as the Criterion theatre and the basement of the Swan and Edgar department store are included. A smaller image on the top left shows the subterranean layout in relation to the position of the surface structures.

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‘Back room boys’ - they also serve

Fred Taylor, 1942

In this ironically named poster, one of a series commissioned by London Transport, Taylor depicts a female member of staff working behind the scenes at the main power station at Lots Road power. Women were recruited for a wide range of roles during the Second World War.

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Soon in the train by escalator

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1937

In the 1930s, improved escalator designs were installed to move passengers more efficiently. Here, the artist shows the internal mechanism of the escalator, to both inform and reassure the public. It reinforced London Transport’s messages around safety and efficiency.

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Automatic control

Maurice Beck, 1930

To dispel public anxieties, some posters explained how safety features on the Underground worked. In this photomontage poster, Beck opens up the railway track to reveal the mechanisms of two safety devices, the tripcock and train stop.

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The lap of luxury

Frederick Charles Herrick, 1925

In the 1920s, seating on the Underground underwent a transformation. Comfortable upholstered woollen moquette replaced plush fabric seating. It may not have been ‘the lap of luxury’ but the poster underlined the appealing combination of comfort and reliability.

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It is warmer down below

Austin Cooper, 1924

The contrasting warm and cool colours in this poster advertise the Underground as a place to escape from the cold air of winter. Promoting the Underground as a haven from the cold, wet and windy British weather was a recurring poster theme.

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Constancy

Julius Klinger, 1929

This poster captures the influence of Frank Pick, who was responsible for publicity in the 1920s. He believed the Underground’s reputation was only maintained by constantly scrutinising and improving the design of the organisation’s products and services.

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Cut travelling time

Tom Eckersley, 1969

The clever combination of scissors in the form of the letter ‘V’, plus the ‘cutting time’ message, made this a powerful poster for the new Victoria line in 1969. Computer-controlled trains and automatic ticket barriers made it the most advanced underground railway in the world.

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Behind the seen

James Fitton, 1948

Fitton’s vivid poster was one of two themed ‘pairs’. The other was called ‘The seen’. Text displayed alongside this poster celebrated the efficiency of the people, infrastructure and machines working behind the scenes, ensuring passengers had a safe and comfortable journey.

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