The Roundel

Learn more about TfL's iconic logo, often used to symbolise London itself

Teddy bear:Paddington Bear (1975) by Eden Toys, Inc.The Strong National Museum of Play

A movie shifts its setting from, let's say, "darkest Peru" to the bustle of Paddington train station in London. How does the movie make it clear to its audience that they've now arrived in London?

Underground Roundel at Arnos Grove (2022-05-24) by Transport for LondonTfL Corporate Archives

It shows the Houses of Parliament, a red bus, a black taxi, the London Eye and the Underground sign. This is repeated in multiple movies and TV shows. Want to symbolise that the action is now in London? Use the universally recognised roundel, and the audience will know

Royal Society of Arts Royal Presidential Medal (1965-06-15)TfL Corporate Archives

It wasn't always called a roundel!

In 1965, the London Transport Board was awarded the Royal Society of Arts’ Presidential Medal. In the citation for the award, the “circle bisected by a horizontal line” was referred to as “one of the best symbols ever devised in modern times"

Memo regarding renaming of the Bullseye (1972-03-17) by London Transport ExecutiveTfL Corporate Archives

The symbol was known as the "bullseye"

It wasn't until 1972 that the bullseye got its now more familiar name of the roundel

So where does the symbol come from?

The origins are obscure, but it seems to be developed from the symbol of our predecessor company, the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC). The LGOC adopted the design of a wheel with wings as a motif and registered it as a trade mark in 1905. The company name was arranged around the wheel and the word General appeared on a bar across the centre.

London General Omnibus Company Symbol (1910-06-15)TfL Corporate Archives

London General Omnibus Company Logo, 1910

The wheel is perfect for the symbol of a transport provider – the wheel promotes travel over distances, the wheel allows growth, the wheel allows mass manoeuvring. And in mythology the winged wheel of Hermes is associated with safe travel

Examples of the Roundel Throughout the Years (1991-12-31)TfL Corporate Archives

The LGOC amalgamated with the Underground Electric Railways

Following amalgamation, in 1902, the Underground experimented with similar motifs before mainly adopting the bar and circle device. It became an important part of the Underground Group’s publicity material, but there was no consistent policy on its use and form

Underground Symbol, 1907-06-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
District Railway Station Nameboard for Mansion House, 1908-06-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
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Article regarding Use of the Roundel Over the Years (1994-06-15)TfL Corporate Archives

The use of the roundel over the years

Drawing showing the standard layout of the 'Registered Design' version of the Johnston Underground bullseye (roundel) (1925) by Edward Johnston and London Electric RailwayLondon Transport Museum

The 'Roundel' is Born - Johnston design registered in 1925

In 1915, the calligrapher Edward Johnston was commissioned to design a company typeface. The sizes of the roundel were 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

Registration of a Series of Roundel and Phrase Trademarks (1934-08-29) by London Passenger Transport BoardTfL Corporate Archives

The Roundel is Patented and Trademarked

Use and display of the symbol are closely controlled

A 1971 report stated that the roundel should be “as inviolate as the Union Jack”.

Suite of Modal Roundels (2022-11-15)TfL Corporate Archives

Did You Know?

Every mode of transport we're responsible for has its own roundel!

Standards for Corporate Colours (1998-03-10)TfL Corporate Archives

PMS 072 (C100 M88 Y0 K5)

That's the official colour of the TfL roundel today - and it's blue. Clearly, TfL overturned the stipulation in this standard from 1991....

Exclusion Zone around Roundel (2022-11-15)TfL Corporate Archives

The Corporate Identity Basic Rules and Specifications for 1993 stipulated that the roundel must appear within a minimum exclusion zone, must only be reproduced in specific colours, and may be no smaller than 9mm in height. 
This tight control remains today

Modal Colour Standards, 2022-11-15, From the collection of: TfL Corporate Archives
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Credits: Story

Story compiled by TfL using information in records at the Transport for London Corporate Archives. The Corporate Archives seeks to preserve and make accessible records, not to interpret them. A wider range of material is available for physical consultation.

Permission is granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only.

This story has been enhanced using images from the collections of the London Transport Museum and an image from The Strong National Museum of Play. All enquiries regarding those images should be made directly to those respective institutions.    

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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