To coincide with the opening of the new Tate Modern extension on 17 June, Art on the Underground and Tate Modern commissioned artist Michael Craig-Martin to design a “reimagined” London Underground roundel at Southwark station.
The roundel is pretty funky: I skipped down there this morning and quite a number of commuters on the platforms seemed to notice that something wasn’t as per normal, although your correspondent was (unsurprisingly) the only one taking photographs and that act seemed to cause more interest than the roundel itself. It is, however, only temporary: it will be taken down and replaced by the standard Southwark station roundels at the end of this weekend.
What makes this roundel interesting is its rarity: whilst there are several replicated along the platform walls, experimenting with the icon that is the London Underground roundel is not something that is sanctioned often. Since introduction in 1908 (and there is a full history of its design story here) there have been design tweaks in its gradual evolution, but it’s rare to find vastly different variations, especially at platform level.
I’ve dug out a few that I’ve seen: if you know of other intriguing ones, do get in touch with the team on Facebook or Twitter.
You see it all over the city – key rings, tea towels, bookmarks, piggy banks, pens, t-shirts, postcards. You name it, there’s a piece of merchandise out there with the Underground plastered all over it. For a number of years, Transport for London has been cracking down on how the famous roundel, font and colours are used on souvenirs and signage. But if you dig deep enough you will still find all sorts of bits and pieces that have not been licenced.
As part of the Museum’s curatorial team Christmas day out, I set my colleagues the task of collecting as much of this unofficial Underground material as they could. In an ‘Apprentice’ style challenge, two teams were given 3 hours and £50 each, and were sent out onto the tourist streets of London to collect what they could. The results were pretty amazing – dodgy pink i-Phone covers, dubious key rings, odd postcards and even a risqué calling card or two!
For the Museum’s LU150 celebrations, we are going to accession some of these finds into the collection as a record of how the roundel is used around the anniversary in 2013. And if any of you see anything you think we should collect, please let us know – maybe take a photo and post it up on here. The weirder the better!