Photograph from the London Transport Museum.
The roundel first appeared on Underground station platforms in 1908. The bar and circle, as it became known, comprised a solid red enamel disc and horizontal blue bar. These early roundels, framed with timber mouldings, were introduced as station nameboards. The new device gave prominence to the name of the station, and helped passengers distinguish it from surrounding commercial advertising.
In 1913 the Underground’s publicity manager, Frank Pick, commissioned the typographer Edward Johnston to design a company typeface. By 1917 the proportions of the roundel had been reworked to suit the new lettering and incorporate the Underground logotype. The solid red disc became a circle, and the new symbol was registered as a trademark.
Section of an anonymous poster, 1920.
Drawing of proportions for Johnston’s roundel, circa 1925.
Photograph from The Guardian.
Over 100 years, the roundel has become the unifying symbol for London’s transport services, and is widely recognised as a London icon.
By James Ireland.
- History of the roundel, on London Transport Museum
- Symbol of life in modern London, on guardian.co.uk
- 100 years of the roundel, on London Transport Museum
- 100 Years of the Roundel, on CR Blog
- Roundel, on Wikipedia
- 100 artists celebrate 100 years of Tube logo, on Transport for London
Update: 14 March 2013
I like Clare Newsam’s handmade roundel seesaw.