Are These The 16 Best London Underground Posters Ever?

Are These The 16 Best London Underground Posters Ever?

In 2013, London Transport Museum launched Poster Art 150, a selection of the best posters from 150 years of London Underground. Now, the artworks are available to view online, as part of an online collaboration with Google. Here, London Transport Museum selects 16 of its all-time favourite designs.

Central London Tube Railway, 1905

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Before it was the Central line, it was the 'twopenny tube' — as this poster notes, you can travel any distance for 2d (a bit like today's bus hopper fares). The message hammered home in this step-by-step graphic is that there's NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. We find the five-time repetition of 'worry' altogether unsettling.

Underground — the way for all by Alfred France, 1911

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

It's heartening to see a female protagonist in this vintage ad — although the Underground had already been going almost 50 years when this was pasted up in tube stations. Note the bottle green Leslie Green tiles. And that dogs were welcome on the tube way back when.

Always warm and bright by Mervyn Lawrence, 1912

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Dublin-born Mervyn Lawrence channels the off-colour characters of Lautrec in this hat-riddled artwork from 1912. A fine painting, perhaps, but it leaves you with the strong impression that travelling on the tube will leave you green behind the gills.

Underground to fresh air by Maxwell Ashby Armfield, 1915

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

A crowded cosmos portrays a bold, if broadly confusing, message in this poster that's ahead of its time (see Man Ray's later effort). It doesn't help that one of the heavenly orbs appear to form an 'O' rather than a 'U'. A striking masterpiece nonetheless.

Brightest London by Horace Taylor, 1924

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

A stone cold classic of interwar London, when 'Bright' was the word of the moment, and flappers swished their newest gowns on the escalators. All that's missing here are a few Corpse Revivers.

Avoid the wet — travel Underground by Kathleen Stenning, 1925

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Simple diagonal lines create a torrential downpour, in this delightful Kathleen Stenning artwork. Not pictured in the snuggly tube scene are the soaking wet brollies, forming puddles as people's feet.

There is still the country by Dora M Batty, 1926

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

One of London Transport's great 'poster girls', Dora M Batty produced over 50 artworks for the network between 1921 and 1938. This autumnal number reflects a popular drive of the time — getting Londoners using the transport network for exploring, not just commuting. Similar messages are still delivered today.

The Lure of the Underground by Alfred Leete, 1927

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

This classic Alfred Leete poster will ring bells with anyone vaguely into London transport art. Leete's most famous — and arguably effective — poster, though was his 'Your Country Needs You' design, aimed at potential first world war sign-ups. Apparently he rattled it off in a day.

It is warmer below by Frederick Charles Herrick, 1927

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Borrowing from Kathleen Stenning's 'Avoid the wet', Charles Herrick's sizzling design is one half of a duo, the other of which claims that it's cooler to travel by Underground in the summer. Dubious as that claim may sound, the tube was once far cooler than it now is.

Speed Underground by Alan Rogers, 1930

With his dynamic archer, Alan Rogers was 10 years ahead of Eric Aumonier, who designed the art deco arrow-wielder who kneels atop East Finchley station.

Play Between 6 and 12 by Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1931

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

McKnight Kauffer used an airbrush effect to create this avant garde artwork, extolling the virtues of the Underground's dawn till dusk service.

Thanks to the Underground by Zero aka Hans Schleger, 1935

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Apparently, nicknaming himself 'Zero' was a wry comment on Hans Schleger's early status as a designer. He needn't have been so humble; the Jewish artist went on to design Dig for Victory posters for the second world war, and created the signage for London bus stops. Also: if they stocked the watch in this poster at the Transport Museum shop, it'd sell out in a second.

London Transport - keeps London going by Man Ray, 1938

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Created by Man Ray using his self-made 'Rayograph' technique, the meaning of this poster remains obtuse. Even when the original was put up for auction, the seller admitted that the message is "unclear". But who cares; it is undoubtedly one of the network's most bewitching designs, and can still be spotted in a waiting room at Gospel Oak Overground today.

Simply nightlife by tube and bus by Dan Fern, 1998

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Dan Fern's moquette-inspired collage conjures up the kind of giddy night out you could expect to have in 1990s London — featuring all-night raves and perhaps a trip to Chinatown for a dim sum breakfast.

We are transforming your tube by Studio Oscar, 2007

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Could there be a whiff of Bansky to Studio Oscar's surreal tubescape? Anyway, the simple ideas are the best, and this one really sticks in the mind. Never did get what that whole 'Mayor of LondON' thing was about though.

Upgrade Underway by Jonathan Tobin for Me Company, 2011

© TfL from London Transport Museums collection

Another unfussy design that gets to the point. Inspired by Edward Johnston's famous 'Underground: Proportions of Standard Bullseye' design'? Surely.

You can see plenty more posters, plus vintage maps and photos, on London Transport Museum's online collection. Does your fave not feature in this article? Let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 21 June 2019