The art of closure

While the closure of an Underground station is hardly something Londoners welcome, the way the tube has been telling passengers that Edgware Road is currently out of action may at least offer some small consolation to designers

While the closure of an Underground station is hardly something Londoners welcome, the way the tube has been telling passengers that Edgware Road is currently out of action may at least offer some small consolation to designers…

Down the length of the station’s Bakerloo line platforms – which can now only be viewed from a slowing tube train – seven white and red signs denote, quite unequivocally, that Edgware Road station is closed.

Above these large signs, even the familiar station name ‘frieze’ has been replaced with similar wording in bright red Johnston type.

As I’ve passed through this non-station on my way to and from work recently, I’ve come to really appreciate the way this particular closure has been communicated.

Of course, there are on-train announcements prior to reaching Edgware Road but, once there, far from clocking sections of grubby hoarding, or limp striped tape, what passengers see is some real attention to detail, coupled with an appreciation of the tube’s own graphic language.

But … it’s just a closed station,” many will (and no doubt do) say. And that’s true – but it’s also why I like the level of design going on here. What gets me is how precisely, how effortlessly of the tube, the message is which comes across.

According to Geoff Moreton, Transport for London’s Signage and Wayfinding manager, this is the first time TfL has covered up a station name along with the roundels during a closure.

“Usually if stations are only closed for a short time – e.g. a fire alarm is sounded – then the ‘station closed’ board with the speed restriction sign is used,” he says, referring to the yellow signs which fold out from the tube maps at the ends of the platform.

“Blue is the colour normally used for the station name on the platform frieze and reversed out of the bar in the platform roundel, so it seemed logical to use red which is also a corporate colour.”

With the text in red – not blue or white – the roundels now a series of squares, things also take on a level of strangeness, too. There are no advertisements, no other posters on the platform – only the brown strip denotes a connection to the particular tube line. (The roundels on the curved wall nearest the train remain.)

And on the tube map, Edgware Road now also sports that peculiar cartographic addition which indicates a station is closed: the name of the stop is crossed-out in red. Years can go by while these stations remain on the map, X’ed-out.

Most of them return, like Mansion House or Blackfriars; while others, Aldwych and Shoreditch, closed in 1994 and 2006 respectively, never do.

While I’m sure many will welcome Edgware Road back into service in late December, I for one will miss the signs that told me it wasn’t quite ready.

*Apologies for picture quality – iPhone at 5mph

Pink Floyd fans may recognise the cover of our June issue. It’s the original marked-up artwork for Dark Side of the Moon: one of a number of treasures from the archive of design studio Hipgnosis featured in the issue, along with an interview with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Hipgnosis with the late, great Storm Thorgerson. Elsewhere in the issue we take a first look at The Purple Book: Symbolism and Sensuality in Contemporary Illustration, hear from the curators of a fascinating new V&A show conceived as a ‘walk-in book’ plus we have all the regular debate and analysis on the world of visual communications.

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