The London Underground logo is ubiquitous in England’s capital city, and the shape of the design has been imitated for a raft of different businesses around the world. But who was Edward Johnston, the designer behind the mark? And how has the logo evolved through the years? Here’s a brief overview.
Edward Johnston (1872–1944), the son of Scottish settlers, was born on his parents’ remote ranch in the province of San José, Uruguay. This is why you’ll find the Underground logo in La Patria, an archive of Uruguayan graphic design. The Johnston family returned to England when Edward was just three years old.
In 1913, Johnston met Frank Pick (1878–1941), commercial manager of the London Underground Group. This meeting ultimately resulted in the commissioning of Johnston’s standard block lettering for the London Underground logo. The first roundel logo, known as the “bullseye” or “target,” consisted of a solid red disc crossed, at its equator, with a blue bar on which the name of the station was written in somewhat clumsy white sans-serif lettering. Pick knew the symbol was a good one, but not good enough.
At the turn of 1916-17, Pick asked Johnston to redesign the trademarks for the Underground Group, including the bullseye logo that Pick had first initiated in 1908. By 1917, Johnston refined the logo to the now familiar branding of the bar and circle we still see today, recognised the world over.
Over 100 years, the roundel has become the unifying symbol for London’s transport services, and is widely recognised as a London icon.
- Edward Johnston, the man behind London’s lettering, on London Transport Museum
- Symbol of life in modern London, on guardian.co.uk
- 100 Years of the Roundel, on CR Blog
- London Underground, on Wikipedia
- 100 artists celebrate 100 years of Tube logo, on Transport for London