London Underground Map Myths

Henry Beck was the only designer of Underground maps for London Transportfrom 1933 to 1960

Henry Beck had a surprising amount of competition while he worked for London Transport. His diagrammatic map was undoubtedly popular, but London Transport also issued geographical Underground maps. These were not only available to the general public, but were also used in prestigious internal publications such as annual reports. Designed by Geographia, they were issued alongside the Underground diagram from 1937 to 1939, and again in 1947. They are a nice contrast to the abstract diagram:

And of course, there is the mystery pocket diagram of 1938 to 1941, attributed to Hans Schleger by Ken Garland. This is a monochrome wartime version:

The 1951 Festival of Britain map, showing the rail and Underground routes to the various sites was not the work of Beck. In 1956, A series of geographical rail/Underground maps commenced. Beck was not the designer. London Transport publicity posters which used map imagery as a means to convey a message were not designed by Beck. They did not even use his symbology:

Designing car line diagrams, station plates (strip maps of individual lines provided on platforms to show passengers the stations served directly from there), and bifurcation plates (to assist passengers in choosing the correct passageway or platform) might also be an obvious task for Beck to have been involved with. Again, there is no evidence of any involvement.

Perhaps we now have some clues as to Henry Beck's treatment by London Transport. He really seems to have been a relatively small fish in a large pond. One of many designers, one of many maps, not even Underground maps were his personal domain. Why should he thus have unique status and control within the organisation? After he left London Transport in 1947, he would have been completely out of the loop and his position would have been even more peripheral to the undertaking.

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Last updated 22/08/07