Designology at the London Transport Museum

If you’ve ever visited London then you’ll be pretty familiar with the London Transport design, be it through buses, underground, overground or Boris bikes. Without question, it is iconic around the world and I have to say that from a design perspective I think it is pretty nice looking. It’s bold, simple, communicates well and it works for millions of people every day. That’s really amazing design – when it looks good AND works.

Imagine if there was no signage to mark bus stops or in tube stations, or if Harry Beck hadn’t designed the tube map – commuting would be (10000x more of) a nightmare. I was pretty surprised to find that in a poll to determine London’s favourite transport Design icon, the tube map was only placed at number 3 below the Black cab and the work of Frank Pick (who commissioned classic Tube posters and the iconic Johnston typeface).

Someone once said that being a designer is a bit like being a Dentist – you don’t do it to get rich or famous, but to make a difference in people’s lives. The new exhibition at the London Transport Museum, Designology, is celebrating just that: design that helps Londoner’s every day lives.

You might have seen my vlog from my first visit to the LTM, but if not… check it out 🙂

Designology London Transport Museum Designology London Transport Museum

If you’re curious, here’s the full list of London’s top 10 favourite transport ‘Design icons’:

  1. Black cab
  2. The work of Frank Pick (managing director at LTM) who commissioned classic Tube posters and the Johnston typeface
  3. Harry Beck’s original Tube map
  4. Baker Street Underground station platforms
  5. Iconic Roundel logo
  6. Original Routemaster bus
  7. Mark Wallinger’s Labryinth artwork found in every Tube station
  8. RT type bus which ran from the 1930s to the 1970s
  9. New walk-through S-stock Tube trains
  10.  Westminster Underground station

I’m glad that a few of my favourite iconic things made it into the top 10, including Mark Wallinger’s Labryinths. I LOVE playing spot the maze when I visit a new tube station – there are over 300 I think, so I doubt I will ever see all of them (unless I set myself a challenge… next 100 day project maybe?) ha

Designology London Transport MuseumDesignology London Transport Museum

Signage, old ticket machines and an array of design tickets are all included in the exhibit. I was just thinking the other day about Oyster cards and what a great system it is – remember paper tickets? I mean, they did look pretty but what a pain! Another little way that technology helps Londoners everyday.

Designology London Transport Museum Designology London Transport Museum

When I’m travelling alone and my wifi isn’t working, I’m mainly looking around for interesting things whilst I’m on the tube. The people, the weird behaviour and the stations; there are so many beautiful details unique to each station. The most obvious is probably the wall murals that line the platforms; from the abstract sugar strands at Embankment, to the monochrome geometry at Leicester square. A fun fact which I learnt whilst at the exhibition is that the illustrations at Charing Cross were intricately carved into wood by Illustrator David Gentleman – you can see the tiny blocks below, no bigger than a bar of Galaxy:

Designology London Transport Museum

It’s those kind of things that fascinates me, along with playing spot the tube seat pattern (I’m a geek, I know). It’s the small details that I seem to soak in like a sponge – how many patterns can you match to tube lines below? I can spot patterns from the Overground and Victoria Line:

Designology London Transport Museum Designology London Transport Museum

It’s really interesting to see the development of a pattern which we see and sit on everyday (on the Jubilee Line) – I wonder if anyone else notices the reference to The Eye within the pattern?

The LTM is holding special Designology studio residencies throughout May, June and July featuring different creatives – find out more & the schedule.

Designology London Transport Museum Designology London Transport Museum

Ok I think you guys might have grasped that I could probably talk about this kinda stuff ALLLLL day, but the only way that you can really know what I’m talking about is by visiting yourself. (And if you haven’t been to the London Transport Museum yet, then what have you been doing!?)

The Designology exhibition opens at tomorrow, Friday 20th May and to celebrate they’re holding a special Friday Late – I’m going back for a closer look, so see you there?


One comment

  • Erin

    29/05/2016 at 11:12 pm

    I still haven’t managed to go, and I LOVE all of that branding stuff so I really need to! I was feeling a bit hormonal recently and found out the story behind why the “Mind the Gap’ announcement is different at Embankment compared to all of the other stations and it made me cry. Definitely worth checking out!

    Erin xx

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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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