London Underground 1932-33

In: Graphic Design (general) Maps

12 Dec 2012

I’ve always read how well designed HC Beck’s 1933 version of the London underground was. It only occurred to me the other day that I never had seen the old version for comparison. There are definitely significant improvements (…improvements that have proven very useful as the system grew further), but I can’t say it blows me away. Of course, that might be because we now view those design features as commonplace.





2 Responses to London Underground 1932-33


Gerrit Smith

March 8th, 2013 at 10:16 am

Thank you for this delightful post.

I, too, had only read about the 1933 design without ever seeing it, much less seeing it laid out next to its predecessor.

The 1933 version, in my opinion, is a quantum leap forward — both in terms of presenting the information with greater clarity and ease of comprehension, and also in the tremendous elegance and beauty of the design.

A lot of “modern” design from the 1930s – especially self-consciously modern design – retains a certain charm and loveliness, but it almost invariably feels terribly dated. Beck’s design feels fresh. With the possible exception of the Underground logo, it looks like it could be posted in a subway today and feel quite current.

It is very cool. At the risk of being a trifle hyperbolic, I daresay it strikes me as the “Demoiselles d’Avignon” of 20th century graphic art.



April 10th, 2013 at 1:53 am

This is a bit weird. I actually prefer the original. When in London last, it always annoyed me that I had to do multiple checks between my street map and the underground map to work out the fastest way between two points. The fact the underground map didn’t give you a good idea of where the stations were in real life was quite annoying.

Perhaps because I am an adventure racer/rogainer I am used to looking at maps from a multitude of angles.

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