See the best posters ever designed for the Tube with a new London gallery
The Global Poster Gallery will feature work from London Transport Museum’s collection of around 1,000 original artworks and 30,000 posters, as well as loans from external archives.
- Liz Gorny
- 25 September 2023
Did you know the London Transport Museum has one of the world’s largest collections of twentieth century graphic art and design? Since 1908, when the first chief executive of London Transport, Frank Pick, had the novel idea to commission picture-based posters for the Tube, TfL has been influencing design history. London Transport Museum’s new Global Poster Gallery will allow audiences to explore the relationship between art and the Underground in full.
Opening on 20 October, its first exhibition is all about commissioning. How to Make a Poster will dive into the poster-making process in the pre-digital age with more than 110 artworks from London Transport Museum’s extensive archive. This includes the very first pictorial poster ever created for the Underground, which outlined the simplicity, speed and cost-effectiveness of the Tube in 1908.
Poster design was largely text-based before the early 1900s. But when the Underground began marketing itself with imagery, such as destination spots, advertising in the UK began to shift. By the 1920s, the Underground was commissioning artists and designers from more radical futurist and cubist styles. At the new Global Poster Gallery, audiences can expect to see work by Abram Games, Hans Unger, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Dora M Batty, among many others.
There will also be context provided on the evolution of production techniques used, plus photographs showing their placement and reception among the public. For anyone keen to learn more about how London’s posters have changed over time, Global has posted stories charting their design – we particularly recommend the 1980s, which features a poster by David Booth, who makes a Tube map from tubes of paint.
“Poster design and outdoor advertising as we know it today is rooted in London and its transport history,” says Jason Cotterrell, chief operating officer, Outdoor at Global. “A long line of designers achieved both artistic and commercial success under Frank Pick and his successors. Today, Global continues this legacy with our innovative displays and creative use of technology. [...] It will be the place in the UK to discover the story of commercial poster art, and its opening exhibition will be a fantastic opportunity for visitors to discover the people behind iconic poster designs and the artistic skill used to create them.”
Hans Unger and Eberhand Schultze: Busabout (Copyright © TfL, 1970)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.