The London transport museum are currently showing an exhibition of posters that have been displayed on the London underground since 1906 to the present day. What is particularly interesting about this exhibition is that all the posters on display were designed by women.
In the early 20th century, poster design started to be considered as a new form of art with designers, illustrators and painters all being commissioned by printers, railway companies, theatres, public bodies etc. to create posters.
This new medium was used extensively by the London Underground’s Traffic & Publicity Manager, Francis Pick who saw the potential in using posters to advertise the new underground network to the public in 1906. Rather than sticking with a single ‘house style’, Pick deliberately commissioned work from a wide spectrum of artistic styles so that the variety in style would continuously attract the viewer’s attention and in so doing brought many modernerist art styles to the attention of the general public.
Prior to 1906, poster design had typically been a very male dominated field but Pick commissioned artists based on talent not gender and as a result, many of the posters were designed by women. Many of the posters designed by women show modern, independent women and encouraged female emancipation.
This large exhibition shows an extensive array of posters designed by women, giving these often unsung artists of the 20th century the credit they deserve.
The posters in this exhibition are displayed chronologically and I found it particularly interesting to be able to track how artistic styles changed through the century.
The posters are bright, colourful, entertaining, witty and a joy to look at. I really enjoyed the entire exhibition. It is fascinating to see how wonderful and clever designs are typically created with very limited colour palettes.
I like the exhibition so much that I bought the book, and there were so many posters that I really liked that it is difficult to pick out some hightlights, but a few things that did stand out for me were:
Effectively, two posters that would be displayed side-by-side or near to each other, such as on either side of a wall mounted tube map. The aim was to give the artist plenty of creative freedom with the poster design and the copy writer plenty of space for the text. Having wrestled with trying to fit text and images around each other when designing posters, I can certainly see the benefits of this style!
Insight into the Design Process
Jennie Tuffs, ‘Marigolds Grow Wild on the Platforms’ book jacket design 1995.
It was fascinating to see the development stages of the design work for this book on railway poems.