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Poster Art 150: And the Winner is…

Brightest London is best reached by Underground, Horace Taylor, 1924

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The results are in and the public have decided that the best London Underground poster of all time is Brightest London is best reached by Underground, designed by Horace Taylor in 1924.

Over 42,000 people voted in the Siemens Poster Vote, choosing from 150 posters that featured in our exhibition Poster Art 150 – London Underground’s Greatest Designs.

Brightest London drew 1752 of the votes with London Zoo by Abram Games (1976) and Underground – the way for all by Alfred France (1911) – securing 1614 and 1342 votes respectively.

London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976 © Estate of Abram Games
4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all, Alfred France, 1911










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The winning poster was created when cinemas still showed black and white films; vibrant posters like this splashed colour into 1920s London. The Underground is presented as bright, popular and extremely fashionable with a very smart crowd heading out for a night on the town. Still vibrant almost 90 years after it first brightened Underground stations, it is easy to imagine how effective it must have been at the time. The artist’s granddaughter once explained that Taylor often liked to paint himself into his posters. In this one he is the gentleman with the top hat and the beard on the middle escalator.

The Poster Art 150 exhibition opened on 15 February 2013 and was due to close in October but was extended until 5 January 2014 due to popular demand. It formed part of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground celebrations and featured posters by many famous artists including Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray and Paul Nash, and designs from each decade over the last 100 years. Information about some of the posters featured in the exhibition can be found on this blog.

The posters were selected from the Museum’s archive of over 3,300 Underground posters by a panel of experts; the 150 that appeared in the exhibition show the range and depth of the Museum’s collection.

Director of London Transport Museum, Sam Mullins, said “The number of votes for Brightest London is impressive given the public had a large selection from which to choose.  We’re delighted that so many people participated in the Siemens Poster Vote which reinforces the view that our poster collection is one of the best loved collections of graphic art in the world.”

Siemens Rail Systems UK Managing Director, Steve Scrimshaw, said “We were proud to be part of the 150th anniversary of London Underground, and have been delighted by the success of the Siemens Poster Vote, it has really captured people’s imaginations.  It is fascinating to see how design has changed over the last 150 years – we have many engineers who are passionate about design, maybe Poster Art 150 has given them some new ideas!”

Poster of the Week: Theatre – go by Underground

Theatre – go by Underground, Barnett Freedman, 1936

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As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

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Have you been to a pantomime this festive season? Or perhaps you have been to see a play. This lovely pair of posters by Barnett Freedman would have encouraged Underground passengers from the 1930s to head to the theatre for entertainment.

Each poster works just as effectively on its own as it does in a pair, with the Underground roundel logo on the left poster enough to indicate that the Underground is the best way to get to the theatre. The posters were sometimes displayed together, and sometimes separately, as the two photos below show.

Putney Bridge Station, January 1937
Putney Bridge Station, 1937

Westminster station
Westminster Station, 1936

Up close, the posters show Freedman’s mastery as an auto-lithographer. Auto-lithography is when an artist draws directly onto the lithographic plates or stones themselves, rather than let the litho-craftsmen at the printers adapt their original artwork. This poster shows Freedman’s innovative use of this technique to create unique textures in the poster. Barnett Freedman was a pioneer in the revival of colour lithography and he illustrated numerous literary works as well as designing publicity for Shell, the BBC and the General Post Office and Ealing Films.

It’s almost the final week of our Poster Art 150 exhibition – so come along and marvel at Freedman’s craftsmanship before 5 January. And don’t forget to vote for your favourite!

Have you voted for your favourite poster yet?

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Poster of the Week: Keep Warm:Travel Underground

Keep Warm:Travel Underground, Kathleen Stenning, 1925

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

With Christmas just around the corner and the weather suitably chilly, it can be with some relief when you descend into the warmth of your local Underground station.

The Underground Group’s publicity department often promoted the Tube as the best way to travel, whatever the unpredictable British weather. In 1925, Kathleen Stenning was commissioned to design a set of four posters presenting the Underground as a refuge from extreme weather conditions and the most appropriate way to navigate the Capital. In this version of Stenning’s series, the Underground is portrayed as warm, vibrant and festive, encouraging people to get out and about despite the winter cold.

In the same way that the red house stands out as a beacon of warmth and comfort against the snow, so does the Underground train. It is alive with activity, with one woman selling flowers and a glamorous couple alighting. While there are no people to be seen above ground– all presumably huddled up in their homes (or travelling Underground)  – the train is full of people.

Promoting the capacity to provide refuge in inclement weather was a popular concept for the Underground Group during the 1920s. It was a theme that had been used in the Group’s publicity since its inception, with a number of posters emphasising the warmth and brightness of the system. 1926 and 1927 saw a duo of celebrated posters, a variation on a set by Austin Cooper in 1924, produced by Frederick Charles Herrick which similarly stressed the protective nature of the Tube.

Although the image in the poster is inevitably idealised, it is still true that when the snow is falling and the roads are impassable, the Underground can act as a source of comfort to Londoners enjoying the festive period.

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Poster of the Week: Where it is warm and bright

Where it is warm and bright, Verney L Danvers, 1924

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

One of the best things about winter celebrations is the abundance of lights, and so it seems fitting to focus this week on a poster that exudes ideas of warmth and illumination – not only in its design but also in it’s title.

A perfect example of ‘soft sell’ advertising from the heyday of the Underground, this evocative image of the City by Verney L Danvers depicts a London street scene at night, thick with winter fog. The bright red Underground symbol – representing a familiar beacon in the gloom – invities the blurred figures into a haven of warmth and brightness.

The poster shows workers heading home in the evening after a day of toil. Many of these people would have been heading off into the suburbs of London which, at the time this poster was designed, were rapidly developing – very much as a result of the expansion of the Underground.

This poster is one of many examples in London Transport Museum’s archive of a lifestyle, or subliminal, approach to promoting travel on the Underground network. Perhaps though, it is more interesting in that it is also highlights the promotion of a brand identity that is now recognised as one of the most enduring symbols in the world.

Written by Wendy Neville, Marketing and Communications Manager

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Poster of the Week: Go out into the country

Go out into the country, Graham Sutherland, 1938

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) started his career as a railway engineer but soon realised that his future lay in the arts. He studied engraving at Goldsmiths’ School of Art from between 1920–1925 and worked as a graphic artist and designer throughout that decade.  In the 1930’s he began to experiment with oil painting and took on a number of poster commissions and applied art projects to fund this new artistic direction. This poster, created towards the end of this period of transition, was the last of five posters designed by Sutherland for London Transport. It represents an exploration of the relationship between the real and the imagined that he went on to express in his surrealist landscapes.  Sutherland contrasts the grey office with the delights of the countryside.  An imaginary river flows colourfully into a lifeless interior; the static typewriter evokes the story-teller’s past presence, replaced by a small bright butterfly fluttering by an open window.

Created in 1938, ‘Go out into the country‘ encouraged leisure travel as an antidote to winter and the uncertain future that faced the country. A cutting from the Daily Express incorporated in the image urges the reader to take advantage of ‘pleasant winter days’ and ‘go out into the country’. Dated January 21st, the message seems optimistic rather than realistic although the image may have served as a reassuring metaphor for brighter times ahead.

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Poster Art 150: Top 10 posters…so far!

As part of our blockbuster Poster Art 150 exhibition we asked you the public to vote for your favourite poster in the Siemens Poster Vote. With only weeks left until the exhibition closes on 5 January 2014, we thought we’d reveal the current top 10 posters. We’ve mixed up the order a little bit here so the leading poster is not revealed quite yet…so, in no particular order;

4-Underground; the way for all
Underground – the way for all (1911) rosetteVote Now

112-Or take the Tube
Or take the Tube (1987) rosetteVote Now

29-The Tate Gallery by tube
The Tate Gallery by Tube (1986) rosetteVote Now

61-For the zoo book to Regent's Park
For the Zoo (1921) rosetteVote Now

2-Brightest London is best reached by Underground
Brightest London is best reached by Underground (1924) rosetteVote Now

27-Map of the Underground
Map of the Underground (1933) rosetteVote Now

144-London 2026 AD; this is all in the air
London 2026 AD (1926) rosetteVote Now

21-The lure of the Underground
The lure of the Underground (1927) rosetteVote Now

58-London Zoo
London Zoo (1976) rosetteVote Now

33-The quickest way to the dogs
The quickest way to the dogs (1927) rosetteVote Now


Are you surprised by any of the posters in this Top 10? Disappointed that your favourite hasn’t made the grade? Well you can change the Top 10 by voting for your favourite, or any of the other 140 posters in the exhibition, now…before it’s too late!

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Poster of the Week: London Zoo

London Zoo, Abram Games, 1976 ©Estate of Abram Games

Vote for your Favourite Poster

As part of the exhibition, the Siemens Poster Vote seeks to find out what your favourite poster is. Is it this one? Let us know by voting now!

Vote Now

In 1975, 38 years after receiving his first commission from London Transport, Abram Games was asked to design a poster for the Zoo-   it would be his last design for them. a subject that would bring  back happy memories of taking his children to the zoo, a short tube journey from his London home.

In October 1975, Michael Levey, then assistant to Bryce Beaumont, wrote to Games stating;

‘We need a gay, colourful and light-hearted poster with a message integrated with the design. I would suggest we try not to complicate it too much, partly because our chairman is a great believer in classic simplicity, and partly because, although we fight to maintain standards, it must be admitted that, for all the giant technical advances of recent years, one cannot always expect the level of individual craftsmanship that we took for granted, say, twenty years ago!’

A few months later Beaumont retired and Levey became London Transport’s Publicity Officer. By now, London Transport was publishing only four posters a year, most of which were contracted out to advertising agencies. Levey was confident that he had commissioned the right designer for the job. Abram’s last few posters for London Transport had been graphic, colourful designs and in 1970 he had designed a geometric tiled mural for Stockwell on the new Victoria Line. He no longer used the airbrush, but painted his artwork in flat, brightly coloured gouache, which afforded his designs ‘more power for impact, a freer relaxed approach and a reduction of printing costs’. Abram’s shibboleth, ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’ was more apt than ever.

London Transport had published many posters for London Zoo since 1913. On all of the posters Regent’s Park or Camden Town were recommended as the closest stations, so it was unusual that Abram’s poster brief specified Baker Street as being the nearest. Zoo posters were mostly comprised of animal illustrations with added text. No designer had yet integrated imagery, typography, or the recognizable roundel. Abram had decided his poster would be a visual puzzle, designed to intrigue and be witty. He sketched his initial thoughts on layout paper, which the Estate of Abram Games still treasures. He experimented with zebras, giraffes and leopards – all animals with strong geometric markings. Eventually, he decided to settle on a tiger, constructed from bars and circles using the same elements of London Transport’s roundel, which he concealed within the poster. Abram often hid the names of his loved ones in his posters. His first granddaughter was born in Israel just before Impress printed the poster in 1976, thus ‘Revital’ appears in Hebrew script.

© Estate of Abram Games

The tiger was a huge hit with the public and attracted the attention of Ernst Gombrich, the art historian who admiringly scrutinized the poster in ‘The Image and the Eye’ in 1982.

Abram responded to Gombrich, stating ‘Your philosophical analysis intrigued me because a designer’s approach takes most of the described considerations ‘en courant’ as it were and without deliberate consciousness except at the back of the mind. All the same, as an ‘analytical worker’ I recalled and recognized my developments as I read your words.’

Games’s ‘Tiger’ is still for sale in London Transport Museum’s shop. His family are proud that the poster has been made into a stamp celebrating London Underground’s 150th anniversary.


Games said ‘I never work large because posters seen from a distance are small. If ideas don’t work an inch high, they will never work’. Had he been here today he would have jested, ‘I told you it would make a great stamp!’

Written by Naomi Games

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