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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Harry Beck honoured

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The birthplace of Harry Beck, designer of the iconic London Underground linear map, has been honoured with a blue plaque.

Harry Beck was born at 14 Wesley Road, Leyton, E10 in 1902. Beck started work for London Transport as an engineering draughtsman in the London Underground Signal Engineer’s office. In 1931 he produced his first design for a diagrammatic map.

Beck was inspired by the linear station-to- station route diagrams used inside carriages, specific to the lines the trains operated on. Beck applied the idea of fixed line route portrayal to the whole map, straightening out what he called the ‘vermicelli’ of the capital’s tangled rail network.

Says London Transport Museum Director, Sam Mullins, ‘Beck’s map was revolutionary in its simplicity. It has become a London icon and influenced the design of many Metro maps across the globe, as well as being the inspiration for many contemporary artists and designers.

‘His work forms part of the overall design ethic of Transport for London and its predecessor organisations, and his original artwork for the London map and the Paris Metro are both on display in London Transport Museum’s Design for Travel gallery.’

From 1947 Beck taught the history and theory of type and design at the London School of

Printing. Beck was notably ahead of the game in producing a version of his London map showing all train services, underground and overground, as early as 1938. This was deemed too complex for publication.

However nowadays an integrated diagrammatic map of this sort has become an essential aid to travel in London.


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