Graphic designNews

Design classic honoured: Tube map creator given blue plaque

The designer of the original London Underground map is commemorated with a rare plaque to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

london underground map anniversary
Click on the image to see the enlarged London underground map

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first public appearance of Henry Beck's Tube map design and the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. Today, the designer was commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque at his birthplace in Leyton in north-east London.

Featured in our roundup of British Design Classics, Henry Beck’s iconic London Underground map remains the template for the Tube map used today. Shockingly, it was first rejected by Underground management for being too revolutionary in its geometric approach, but when it finally went in to print it was an immediate success.

Simplicity is key

The simplicity of Beck’s design was the key to its success, with over 850,000 pocket-sized copies printed in the first two months of 1933, and in March of that year Beck produced the first quad royal (40 by 50 inches) poster versions of the map.

London transport museum director Sam Mullins said, "Beck’s map was has become a London icon and influenced the design of many Metro maps across the globe, as well as being the inspiration for many contemporary artists and designers.

"His work forms part of the overall design ethic of Transport for London and its predecessor organisations, and his original artwork for the London map and the Paris Metro are both on display in London Transport Museum’s Design for Travel gallery.”

london underground map anniversary
london underground map anniversary
The designer went by the names of both Harry and Henry

Travelling to London? Take a look at our Designer's Guide to London.

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