Can’t get enough of your morning commute on the London Underground? Fear not, the London Transport Museum has taken decommissioned signs from the world’s oldest subway system and put them up for sale.
The London Underground – known to locals as “the Tube” – is the lifeblood of London life. While Londoners love to complain about its horrid temperature control in the summer, the world’s oldest underground railway is as iconic as the disembodied voice on its platform telling passengers to “mind the gap”.
Now enthusiastic commuters and design-aficionados alike will be able to decorate their own homes like their favourite Tube station. Those less keen on a full-blown municipal design scheme can choose from the collection of signs on sale from the London Transport Museum’s “Decommissioned Originals Collection” ranging in price from £10 to over £1000.
The limited-edition collection offers all kinds of signs found in the transport system including wayfinding signs, fire-exit symbols and the Underground’s distinctive roundel, perhaps the most coveted (and expensive) of the pieces available.
The roundel, known as the “bulls-eye” until 1972, has been a feature of the Underground since 1908. The original bar-and-circle design featured a filled red circle with a bar of text in white and navy and is hard to trace back to any one designer.
The ubiquity of the roundel as we know it today – with its open-circle design – is the result of indirect collaboration between typographer Edward Johnston and architect Charles Holden.
In 1913, Edward Johnston was commissioned by Frank Pick, commercial manager of Underground Electric Railways Company of London, to create a typeface unique to the city’s transport system.
In addition to creating his epynonymous Johnston Sans typeface, the Uruguayan-British typographer also altered the filled-circle design creating what we know today as the roundel. He went on to design various roundels unique to stations across London in order to bring designed cohesion to London transportation. The Underground roundel itself was trademarked in 1917.
In 1923, Holden was also commissioned by Pick to design new stations for the transit system, and Johnston’s roundel featured prominently, making it a truly distinguishing trademark of the London Underground. It was a true realisation of Pick’s vision, to bring design to all spaces of life. In Pick’s own words: “Design is not a mode that enters in here and there and may be omitted elsewhere. Design must enter everywhere.”
Signs today still have the open-circle logo but the Johnston typeface was replaced in 1980. Eiichi Kono, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Design, undertook the task to make a typeface that was reminiscent of the original but cheaper to use.
Johnston’s original typeface needed to be drafted by hand, a time-consuming and expensive process. Nearly 60 years after its invention, typesetting technology had far surpassed hand-drafting and Transport for London (TfL) wanted to take advantage of this. Kono’s “New Johnston” now graces TfL signage, appearing slightly bolder than the original.
While the signs don’t date back to when the Underground was first unveiled in 1863, they are a piece of the city’s design and transport history, silent witnesses to the comings and goings of the Tube’s 1.3 billion passengers each year.
The “Decommissioned Originals Collection” will be available from the London Transport Museum shop in a rotating selection of perfectly unique pieces that once graced the tunnels and trains of the Tube system.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.