Reimagining historic posters

For over 100 years, travellers on the network have been encouraged to use public transport by original posters designed to catch the eye. Here, we look at some classic designs that have gone on to provide inspiration for a new generation of artists to contemporary audiences.

By London Transport Museum

Shop on a bus (1984) by Edward Rowland McLachlanLondon Transport Museum

Shop on a bus (1984)

Highlighting the advantages of travelling and shopping by bus, this poster  makes London seem smaller and very accessible. In a single loop, it captures a family enjoying a successful shopping trip on route 65. Only the traffic warden, deprived of parking tickets, appears unhappy.  

See London (1959) by Victor GalbraithLondon Transport Museum

See London (1959)

Here, one of London’s famous red buses encircles the Capital’s famous landmarks. The poster visually reinforced how easy it was to see all the sights on a London Transport sightseeing tour.    

London: how to go about it (1979) by Ray CampbellLondon Transport Museum

London: how to go about it (1979)

A unique model made of plasticine was created for this poster by illustrators and model makers Ray Campbell and Robin Boutell. The theme of London’s landmarks encompassed by public transport has become a popular way of representing London’s transport services.   

Seeing the riches of London (1927) by Frederick Charles HerrickLondon Transport Museum

Seeing the riches of London (1927)

This 1920s poster was one of a series produced by Herrick. Each poster used a different sense – sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing - to illustrate the different ways London could be experienced. Here, the theatre binoculars accentuate the sense of seeing by suggesting that London is a stage.    

Please keep your personal stereo personal! (1991) by Tim DemuthLondon Transport Museum

Please keep your personal stereo personal! (1991)

This more contemporary design mixes ideas about seeing and hearing. In the early days of portable music, it addressed Tube etiquette by using a cassette tape to represent eyes. Passengers were reminded about being aware of their surroundings when listening to music on public transport.     

London Transport, Man Ray, Waterlow & Sons Ltd, London Transport, 1938, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
Simply fashion by Tube and bus, Trickett & Webb, Art on the Underground, London Transport, 1999, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
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The poster on the left is regarded as one of the Underground’s most iconic artworks. The artist and photographer Man Ray depicts the roundel with Saturn touring the night sky. His clever ‘rayograph’ method created images by exposing objects directly on to light-sensitive paper. The poster on the right was commissioned by London Transport to promote different aspects of London’s rich social life. Directly referencing Man Ray’s poster, this design transforms the planet Saturn into a dramatic headpiece to promote London’s fashion week.

To town tonight (1958) by Victor GalbraithLondon Transport Museum

To town tonight (1958)

Graphic designer, Victor Galbraith, uses an eye-catching design against a black background to promote night time travel. The familiar London pigeon is portrayed holding a bunch of balloons, which remind us of all the exciting activities the city provides as evening entertainment.    

Round London sightseeing tour (1973) by Harry StevensLondon Transport Museum

Round London sightseeing tour (1973)

Here Stevens uses a child’s favourite toy to recall the fun of sightseeing and  promote some of London’s most popular sites. The dark background helps to highlight the bright colours of the windmill.    

For the Zoo book to Regent's Park, Charles Paine, 1921, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
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To mark the 150th anniversary of the Underground, London Transport Museum worked with Central Saint Martin students to bring posters to life. Second Year MA Character Animation students worked in groups to draw inspiration from the Museum's collection of Underground posters. Students created animations that celebrate the theme of London characters. This film was inspired by the poster For the Zoo, by Charles Paine, 1921. 

Kenwood (1935) by Margaret Calkin JamesLondon Transport Museum

Kenwood (1935)

This poster promotes Kenwood House, on the edge of Hampstead Heath in north London. Trees frame the image and invite the viewer to explore the former stately home, which boasts neo-classical architecture and Rembrandt’s self-portrait amongst other features.   

Kenwood House (1975) by Robert Flavell MicklewrightLondon Transport Museum

Kenwood (1975)

Here, Kenwood House is presented as a refuge from the busy city. The strong greens and blues and the sense of calm space behind provide an inviting contrast with the noise and bustle of central London. Even more so than in the 1930s.     

Come, on wings of joy (1931) by Andre Edouard MartyLondon Transport Museum

Come, on wings of joy we'll fly (1931)

In this early 1930s design, Marty uses a relaxing picnic scene to promote countryside escapes. The poster is accompanied by an extract from William Blake's poem, 'The birds'.   

Boat Races. Head of the River, Anne Hickmott, The Baynard Press, London Transport, 1959, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
Saturday March 28th at 3.30pm, Charles Paine, The Baynard Press, Underground Electric Railway Company Ltd, 1925, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
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These posters take an aerial view of the boat race to encourage people to attend the event. Although the posters are over 30 years apart, Hickmott and Paine both take a similar approach in their use of bold graphics and the team colours.     

Brightest London and home by Underground (1924) by Horace TaylorLondon Transport Museum

Brightest London and home by Underground (1924)

This poster depicts a party scene and promotes the use of the Underground after dark. Here Taylor experiments with flat colour to illustrate the vibrancy of 1920s London. The posters provided a splash of colour in a city still largely drab and grey after the First World War.   

Brightest London - Restuarants (2016) by Virginie MorgandLondon Transport Museum

Brightest London – Restaurants

Inspired by screen-printing techniques, Morland’s restaurant scene encourages eating out and the use of public transport in London. This poster is part of the 2016 ‘Brightest London’ poster collection, which echoes and expands on the social scenes and colour of Taylor’s iconic 1920s images.    

Butterflies, Derrick Sayer, Waterlow & Sons Ltd, London Transport, 1952, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
Natural History Museum; lepidoptera, Austin Cooper, The Baynard Press, Underground Electric Railway Company Ltd, 1928, From the collection of: London Transport Museum
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Sayer’s striking poster is one of a pair of posters. The accompanying text panel encourages butterfly-watching throughout the Capital by listing sites where butterflies may be seen. The open-winged butterfly represents the freedom of travelling beyond the city. In Lepidoptera is the name for the group of four-winged insects comprising butterflies and moths. To promote visits to the Natural History Museum, Cooper uses an airbrush and stencils to create his beautiful butterfly.    

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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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