Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The London Underground roundel

click photo to enlarge
There is a great temptation for companies to update their company name and logo to better reflect the times. If you look at companies as disparate as Shell, BP, Coca Cola, British Airways, Lego or Ford you can see a clear difference between the original logo and that of today, often with intervening versions along the way.

Companies that stick to their original logo or way of presenting their company name are fewer. Why is this? Could it be that they don't want, in some way, to dilute or muddy their brand by departing from what is tried, tested and successful? Or is it that they think they have found a design upon which improvement is impossible? BMW is an example of a company whose logo has changed little since its inception around 1920. The linked letter Cs of Chanel have also remained the same since the design was conceived by Coco Chanel in 1925.

A further example of a long-lasting logo is that of London Underground. The red roundel with a blue bar across upon which are the white letters - either "UNDERGROUND" or a station name - dates from 1908. There is the suggestion that it was adapted from the wheel with a bar across it used by the London General Omnibus Company in the nineteenth century. However, what is known is that a slight variation of the present design with the word "Underground" presented thus - UNDERGROUND  - was first used in 1908 and that in 1919 Edward Johnston designed a sans serif typeface with all letters the same height for use throughout the London Underground, including on the roundel. It has remained the same since that time. The Transport for London (TfL) subsidiary, London Overground, adapted the roundel for its use, as did , London Buses  (also a TfL subsidiary). All three logos can be seen on this sign near the determinedly modern Canada Water Library in London.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 28mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On