Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
There’s a lot to find inside TfL’s detailed new booklet, including a map and “flashcards” that categorize stations by appearance.
No stone or platform tile is left unturned in the London Underground Station Design Idiom. The 225-page guide, an official Transport for London document, covers nearly ever possible design issue a TfL employee or hired designer will have to face at an Underground station.
If you don’t work for TfL you don’t really need to read it, but it’s the kind of guide a transit enthusiast can’t put down. It also provides a reassuring message to riders—a public document that declares a commitment to high design standards and thoughtful preservation.
“Good design should be the driver of decision-making, should permeate every level of the organisation, and should, ultimately, be celebrated by everyone,” Gareth Powell, London Underground’s Director of Strategy, writes in its preface. “It doesn’t have to cost more; it’s an approach and an attitude of mind that thinks both broadly and carefully about what we do,” he adds.
The guide covers everything from platform lighting to ticketing areas, but the most rewarding section for lay people is the one filled with “Idiom Flashcards” (page 198). In it, stations are organized by design type with each category providing a guide for color scheme, materials, and special features, along with a brief story behind the construction period.
Best of all, it’s introduced with a twist on the famous Underground map: every line is gray while each station has a color dot that identifies which of the system’s 20 design periods it belongs to:
Followed by the “flashcards”:
The Idiom is on exhibit at Platform, an art space behind Southwark Underground station. It’s just one element of TfL’s “Transported by Design” programming that runs until 2017. Up next month, a celebration of Johnston, the typeface that was created by Edward Johnston and Eric Gill in 1916 and that’s been synonymous with London’s public transit ever since.