London Transport Posters

London Transport Posters

>The modern graphic poster came into use in the 1890s. Whether in the field of advertising, publicity, or propaganda, posters have since served as visual telegrams, providing a powerful means of communication.

The Underground Group's early publicity was ineffective. It failed to draw together the various transport systems or establish a coherent corporate identity. From 1907, under Albert Stanley's management, this began to change. Frank Pick was given responsibility for publicity in 1908 and, using graphic posters, set about building a positive company image in the minds of the public. Pick was aware that almost every attraction in London was within reach of the Underground, or at least could be marketed as such. Eye-catching images of the City's museums, theatres, cinemas, shops, parks, festivals, and sporting events lured the public onto the Underground.

Poster advertising also extended to subsidiary bus and tram companies. The Underground Group took over the London General Omnibus Company in 1913, two years after the fleet became fully mechanised. With motorbuses operating over much longer distances, the Underground Group could offer a growing range of country excursions. Posters advertising these services took the same indirect approach as those promoting City travel. Idyllic rural scenes tempted the City dwellers out of London.

Corporate Identity

The distinctive 'UNDERGROUND' lettering was introduced in 1908, heralding the beginning of the Underground Group's coherent graphic identity. In 1916, Pick commissioned Edward Johnston to design an exclusive typeface for station names. By the 1920s, the Johnston Underground typeface also appeared on posters and other publicity. The standard format established a clear corporate design identity and helped distinguish the company's information from other commercial advertisements. By this time the Underground Group's logo, the roundel, was registered as a copyright design. The solid red disc had become the circle it is today, its proportions devised by Johnston specifically to suit the typeface.

The golden age of poster design

During the 1920s and 30s, London Transport posters reached a peak of stylistic quality. Commissions were given to internationally known artists as well as promising newcomers. Designs were often striking, bold, geometric, and abstract. Many poster artists were influenced by European avant-garde art movements. Their designs provided a commercial take on styles such as cubism, futurism, and vorticism.This bought modern art to a much wider audience than would ever visit contemporary galleries.

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