London Underground. Frank Pick (1878-1941)

Frank Pick has arrived in London in 1906 with a legal background, he was, by chance, given the responsibility of the London Metro advertising. He became passionate about this mission. He can be describe as a person with a natural sense of organization, taking care about the smallest details and one of the first people who understands the importance of design. He will impose these to the others in a tyrannical way, sometimes, but he will never get wrong.

In 1916, he starts working with Edward Johnston, a great typographer, who will create an incredible typography without serif. This new typography will assure the exclusivity and modernity and it will be placed in every station in London. After that, Frank will contact Charles Holden, an architect, to redesign each station in 1920.

When the stage is set, he starts to develop the communication plan by himself.  This plan is not about making people take more the bus or the metro but about make people feel comfortable. So he starts, randomly, talking with people in the metro and he picks up some of their opinions to use them, later, as quotes. Pick starts also thinking about how the stations can become kind of galleries so people can also visit them. He askS for thousands of models and he contacts the more talented young people like Paul Nash or Graham Sutherland.

Nevertheless, Frank will always let the artists express themselves, even keeping for him the critics or the opinions. In fact, Pick will be known as “one of the best patron of the century in Englandy” said Nicolas Pevsner.

Always concerned about his public, he will keep 150 copies to sell them out of the thousand copies they produced. He will invent, thanks to this, the decorative poster.

He will end his career as the CEO of the London Passenger Transport Board but also, in 1934, he will be elected as the First President of the Council of Art and Industry that it will stands for the Design Council in the following years.

Those are some of the posters:

Irene Fawkes, The Problem of the Underground, 1924

Alfred Leete,The Lure of the Underground, 1927

Charles Paine, For the Zoo, 1921

Horace Taylor, Brightest London, 1924

Man Ray, Keeps London Going, 1932

Alan Rogers, Speed Underground, 1930

Source: L’Encyclopédie de l’Affiche, Alain Weill