Wednesday, 16 October 2013



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.
Dover Street (now Green Park) station, c1923. 
Reference number: 1998/80413

Underground logotype
In 1908 the various separate underground railway companies agreed to use the term 'Underground' for all their joint promotion of services. A distinctive logotype, designed with a large initial U and final D, began to appear outside stations and on advertising material. Like the bar and circle, this marks a significant step towards establishing a coherent graphic identity for the Underground.
Underground logotype at Belsize Park station, 1935. 
Reference number: 1998/57991
From the early 1910s, the Underground logotype began to appear across the bar and circle symbol. This integration was a significant development in establishing the roundel as a unified company trademark.
Bar and circle symbol on a poster by Charles Sharland, 1914. 
Reference number: 1983/4/421

London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) logo
In 1905, shortly before the roundel was introduced, the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) registered the 'winged wheel' as its trademark. It only briefly appeared on the company's fleet of motor buses, but remained on uniform badges until LGOC became part of the Underground Group in 1912.

The Underground Group required a new approach to corporate identity from 1912, which would unite LGOC and existing underground railway services. A roundel symbol which combined the LGOC's winged wheel and the Underground's bar and circle was introduced on maps issued by the integrated company.

Metropolitan Railway logotype
From mid-1914, the Metropolitan Railway introduced its own version of the Underground roundel. This originally appeared as a blue station name plate across a red diamond. The symbol was also used on publicity material and timetables, as shown here.
Johnston's roundel
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 from an anonymous poster, 1920. 
Reference number: 1983/4/856

By 1919 Johnston's standardised roundel symbol was being used on publicity. It began to appear on station exteriors and platform nameboards from the early 1920s.
Johnston's roundel on platform name board, 1933. 
Reference number: 1998/81853

In the 1920s, Johnston introduced exact guidelines for the reproduction of the roundel. The proportions of the bullseye, as he called it, were re-designed to incorporate the standardised company typeface.  Between 1920 and 1933, Johnston designed a variation of the roundel for each operating division of the Underground Group. This provided a unified identity for both rail and road services.

Holden adopts the roundel
The roundel became an integral part of station architecture in the 1920s. From 1924, Frank Pick commissioned the architect Charles Holden to design new stations and reconstruct existing ones. Holden introduced the roundel to station architecture in a number of ways. Venetian masts appeared outside stations, which acted like flagpoles to support the logo in three dimensions. Stained glass roundels were incorporated into clerestory windows above station entrances. The architectural roundel greatly assisted passengers in identifying stations at street level.
In the early 1930s, Holden began designing new stations for the northern and western extensions of the Piccadilly line. Roundels were introduced on station platforms, with thin bronze frames to match the new handrails and poster frames. The roundel, which continued to act as a platform name board, was now incorporated into the very fabric of the station interior. During the 1930s, Holden also employed the roundel in his designs for bus stop flags and shelters.

Cockfosters station platform, enamel nameboard on concrete, designed by Holden, 1933. 

London Passenger Transport Board
In 1933, the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) was created as a single giant public authority to run all bus, tram and underground railway services across the capital. The new Board wanted to introduce a unifying logo to represent all its newly acquired services. A winged symbol incorporating the new initials was designed by C W Bacon, but lasted only a few months. Frank Pick, now Chief Executive of the new LPTB, recommended a return to the bar and circle device.

The London Passenger Transport Board adopted the trading name 'London Transport' in 1933. It used this shortened name on all signs, vehicles and publicity. Johnston reworked the proportions of the roundel again to incorporate the organisation's new title.

The organisation's change of name had to be reflected across all the Board's transport divisions. An unsuccessful attempt had been made to introduce LPTB to roundels representing the Underground, General, Tramways and Green Line. This was soon superseded by positioning 'London Transport' in the white space above and below the bar of each fleet roundel.
Tramways fleet roundel on map, November 1933.
Reference number: 2002/3816

Roundels for the road
London Transport took over a number of independent bus operators in the 1930s, including those covering the Country Bus area. Bus services were unified under a single organisation, whilst retaining distinct operating divisions for Green line coaches, the red central buses and green country buses. A combined stop flag was developed in 1935, bearing the London Transport roundel.
The graphic designer Hans Schleger was commissioned to redesign the bus stop in 1935. His simplified roundel consisted of a plain bar and circle in silhouette form. It retained the colour coding of operating services, but removed the outlined. Schleger's stop flags were introduced throughout London, providing the basis for the bus stop signs in use today.


First sign manual
In an attempt to standardise station signage in 1938, the first illustrated sign manual was drawn up, based on the Carr-Edwards Report on the standardisation of signs. The manual was, in effect, the formalisation of the basic principles on which Holden developed his signage system in the early 1930s. Holden's blue canopies and exterior mounted silhouette bullseyes were retained. The manual also included guidelines for the use of the roundel on platforms, escalators and ticket offices.

Post-war signage
London Transport was nationalised in 1947. Harold Hutchison, who was appointed Publicity Officer, sought to simplify and standardise all signage. All letters displayed on the bar of the roundel became the same size and the key lines, or hyphens, were removed. Hutchison also recommended that the name 'London Transport' should replace 'Underground' at the centre of the roundel.
Hutchison's vision for simplified signage was in keeping with contemporary graphic design trends. It was also a response to the post-war economic climate. To reduce manufacturing and maintenance costs at this time, name plates were produced on solid enamel sheets. This was a far more economical process than using Holden's silhouette or bronze framed roundels.
Victoria line
A London Transport Design Panel was established in 1963 to coordinate in-house design of the Victoria line. The panel included Harold Hutchison and design consultant Misha Black of the Design Research Unit (DRU). By the early 1970s the DRU was employed to review the whole corporate identity of London Transport, including the design and use of logo and typeface.

Roundels for vehicles
From the mid 1930s a special version of the roundel appeared on the front and back of all trolleybuses. It was not used as the main symbol on buses until the mid 1960s. From the 1970s a plain white roundel was used on all London bus sides.
From the 1970s a plain colour version of the roundel, with no text, was applied to new Underground trains. This can be seen here on a 1972 stock. The standard London Underground train livery since the 1990s has included the red and blue LU roundel with white Underground lettering on carriage sides.
London Regional Transport
London Regional Transport (LRT) was established in 1984. A new corporate logo was designed to distinguish LRT from its operating companies, London Buses and London Underground. However, the logo was short-lived and never achieved the impact of the roundel.
London Regional Transport corporate logo, 1985. 
Reference number: 1998/108571

Each operating subsidiary of LRT was given its own version of the roundel. London Underground took this opportunity to rationalise its own signage, commissioning design consultants Henrion, Ludlow and Schmidt to advise on their logo in 1984. Their blue and red Underground roundel strongly resembled that introduced by the Design Research Unit in 1972.
Three roundels from the LRT corporate identity booklet, published in 1987. 
Reference number: 1998/105089

In 1987, the corporate identity consultants Wolff Olins were given the task of developing roundels for the other operating subsidiaries of London Regional Transport, thus linking the family of operating companies.

In 1990 LRT and its subsidiary operating companies: London Transport Buses and London Underground reverted to the group name London Transport. Again the roundel was employed as the unifying symbol, to identify and link the companies in the minds of the public. Joint group services were identified by a red roundel. Both rail and bus roundels appeared together on common publicity.

From 1994 bus services were operated on London Transport's behalf by private companies. London Transport Buses (LTB) was responsible for planning and managing the service contracts. LTB set about establishing standards for using the roundel as a unified identity for publicity and signs. A white roundel on a red square became the main symbol for the bus network.

TfL and the family of roundels
On 3 July 2000, Transport for London (TfL) was created to manage the majority of transport services in London. As well as the bus system, TfL had responsibility for taxis, London river services, Victoria coach station, Docklands Light Railway, Croydon Tramlink, Street Management, Dial-a-Ride and London Transport Museum. In 2003 London Underground became part of TfL and from 2007 part of the suburban rail network was transferred to TfL, branded as 'Overground'.
The decision to continue using the roundel as the identification of both TfL and its 'modes' was taken early on in the organisation's history. Since then a 'family' of roundels, using different colours to badge the various services, has been developed. This is based on a plain blue roundel for TfL with other colours denoting the various services. Each mode has subsequently gained an independent identity, whilst communicating that they are part of a wider organisation. Any non-roundel logos were eliminated as part of this process.
Multi modal signage at Canning Town station, 2008. 
Reference number: 2008/2716

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