Celebrating the recent design history of London transport

A series of new (and rather collectible) posters curated by the London Transport Museum have gone on sale, including works by Tricket & Webb, Ruth Hydes and Paul Catherall

Transport buffs can rejoice, as the London Transport Museum releases a new collection of posters that have been used across the UK capital’s transport systems over the past two decades.

Commissioned by Transport for London and its precursor London Transport, the First Editions posters date from graphic designer Dan Fern’s nightlife-inspired scene in 1998 up to Esther Cox’s shopping series from earlier this year.

Top image: Studio Coward, London Skyline, 2010. Above: Dan Fern, Simply Nightlife, 1998. Both © London Transport Museum
Esther Cox, Vintage & Retro Shopping, 2018 © London Transport Museum

The limited edition series of posters also includes works such as Central Illustration Agency founder Brian Grimwood’s image of a chilli hanging on a picture hook that was used to advertise east London’s Brick Lane, and Andy Spencer’s typographic tribute to Edward Johnston, who was commissioned to create the famous Johnston typeface and roundel logo still in use today all the way back in 1917.

Formerly Head of Trading for the London Transport Museum, Michael Wolton has also worked as a Poster Art Commissioner for both London Transport and TfL since 1998, and was responsible for overseeing many of the posters in the First Editions collection.

Brian Grimwood, Brick Lane, 2003 © London Transport Museum
Andy Spencer, Johnston Poster, 2016 © London Transport Museum

“Transport for London already has a well established Art on the Underground programme, and my particular role is to commission posters that when posted on the Underground are attractive enough to generate new fares income for the organisation, encourage sales of the posters to help the museum raise revenue, and add to the world famous archive of posters that have been commissioned since 1908,” says Wolton.

One of his favourite designs included in First Editions includes linocut artist Paul Catherall’s advertisement for St. Pancras Station, created in 2008. “His St. Pancras poster was unusual [given that] Transport for London wanted to include a bus for once, as they believed buses were unrepresented in pictorial posters,” says Wolton. “Catherall pared the beautiful and complex building, which is 150 years old, down to basics and the resulting image is a great favourite.”

Paul Catherall, St. Pancras, 2008 © London Transport Museum

Another highlight for Wolton is illustrator Ruth Hydes’ work for TfL, including her series of posters celebrating London’s markets. “A second series followed featuring ‘fresh air’ outer London destinations, one of which is the autumnal Epping Forest, [which was] brilliantly observed and captured in one of my favourite posters,” he says.

When it comes to deciding how to commission new posters, Wolton says he prefers to stick to artists, illustrators and designers rather than photographers, given the “endemic” use of photos on most contemporary designs.

Ruth Hydes, Epping Forest © London Transport Museum

He also tends to commission works in series of typically four; an idea that is borrowed from the poster commissioners and designers of the 20s and 30s.

“I always look for the right artists to reflect contemporary tastes and a high quality of attention to detail within their artworks, as well as work that in 50 or 60 years’ time will be seen as great representations of their era,” says Walton.

Trickett & Webb, Simply Fashion, 1999 © London Transport Museum

Posters from the First Editions series are available to buy at the London Transport Museum shop and online; ltmuseumshop.co.uk

GROUP GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Bedford, Bedfordshire