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London Underground By Design [Paperback]

Mark Ovenden
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Jan 2013

London Underground By Design is the beautifully illustrated new book from Mark Ovenden, the acclaimed author of Great Railway Maps of the World, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Tube in 2013.

Since its establishment 150 years ago as the world's first urban subway, the London Underground has continuously set a benchmark for design that has influenced transit systems from New York to Tokyo, Moscow to Paris and beyond. London Underground by Design is the first meticulous study of every aspect of that feat, a comprehensive history of one of the world's most celebrated design achievements, and of the visionaries who brought it to life.

Beginning in the pioneering Victorian age, Mark Ovenden charts the evolution of architecture, branding, typeface, map design, interior and textile styles, posters, signage and graphic design and how these came together to shape not just the Underground's identity, but the character of London itself. This is the story of celebrated designers - from Frank Pick, the guru who conceptualised the modern Tube's look under the 'design fit for purpose' mantra, to Harry Beck, Tube diagram creator, and from Marion Dorn, one of the twentieth century's leading textile designers, to Edward Johnston, creator of the distinctive font that bears his name, as well as Leslie Green, designer of central London's distinctive ruby-red tiled stations, and the Design Research Unit's head, Misha Black, who in the 1960s rebranded British Railways and created the Victoria line's distinctive style, and Sir Norman Foster, architect of Canary Wharf station.

'Fascinating ... authoritative ... bristles with photographs I've never seen before ... the book does ample justice to a network that - overcrowded and overpriced - is a glorious palimpsest of design' Andrew Martin, Observer

'I wouldn't ordinarily enthuse about one book at such length, but this is an important work...not because it's an entertaining read (it is), but because it identifies the birth of a brand...and records the birth of a new idea - the transport interchange' Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs Magazine

'Mark Ovenden has devotedly documented the designs associated with [the Underground] ... "addictive" for anyone interested in the look of everyday life' Telegraph

'This beautifully illustrated history is a worth tribute [to 150 years of design]' Shortlist

'A wonderful, handsome book ... it makes me want to nerd out, get a travel card and whiz out to the strange ends of Metroland or the UFO shape of Southgate station' Robert Bownes/Andrew Tuck, Monocle Weekly (Radio programme)

Mark Ovenden is a British writer and broadcaster. His previous books are Metro Maps of the World, Paris Metro Style and Great Railway Maps of the World. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and lives in London.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books (18 Jan 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144172
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 18.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark was born and brought up in London, England and as a kid he was always interested in the media and in trains. He built miniature TV studios out of Lego & sticky backed plastic. He set up a closed circuit radio station which got piped through to other parts of the family home. He collected old maps of trains and often went out exploring closed-down rail lines. Aged 14-16 Mark presented a weekly show on the local hospital radio station, collected records and attempted to DJ at local events. A genuine 'geek' in the making!

Following early interests, Mark's school project was on the London Underground in which he painted a revision of the classic Beck inspired Tube diagram. Marks version kept the diagrammatic style but retained the geographic position of the lines: the resulting mess convinced him why Beck was right to expand the central area but helped gain Mark a place at Art College in Southampton. It was there he conceived of an idea to start a 'what's on' listings magazine for the area. 'Due South' published from November 1982 but Mark stepped down after just a couple of years as Editor to persue more pressing political interests. He become an activist during the 1984/5 Miners Strike. This spurred his journalistic interests and he began working for a local radio station as a trainee reporter. After a few years he was reading the news not making it.

Given his ongoing interest in politics and a desire to move to a livelier city, he took a job with the progressive Manchester City Council as an Equality Officer in 1990, delivering training on tackling homophobia in the workplace. Meanwhile Mark developed ideas with a colleague for a national radio show and scored a huge coup by getting BBC Radio 1 to commission their first ever series aimed at young lesbians and gay men: 'loud'n'proud' in 1993. Mark became freelance journalist and newsreader for Manchester's Kiss102 from 1994.

He took four months out in London to work on BBC2's first series for lesbians and gays, 'Gaytime TV' and back at Kiss102, Mark fronted the daily entertainment show 'The Word' , became newsreader 'Peter Parker' for London's Kiss100 breakfast show and was promoted to Programme Manager until 1997 when he became full time producer at BBC Radio 1 on the Annie Nightingale show. In mid 1998 he joined MTV as a freelance music programmer then became a producer and presenter at Atlantic252.

In early 2000, Mark moved to Ministry Of Sound, helping set up their DAB Digital Radio station, and as Head of Radio at MoS, Mark applied for and won the licence to run a one month long FM version of the station.

Mark moved into consultancy after this and in 2002 he joined a fledgling TV channel as Channel Manager but by this stage had already become consumed by the idea of compiling a book that contained the official map of every urban transit system in the world. "Metro Maps of The World" was published in November 2003 and sold out its first run in a matter of weeks. In September 2005 Mark moved to France to focus on his next book about the Paris Metro. Meantime his original publication was picked up by a Dutch Publisher ('Metrokaarten van der wereld" 2006) and also by Penguin in the USA. The American version, "Transit Maps of The World" was published October 2007. Media coverage was phenomenal and led to unexpectedly high sales, and a Top 100 ranking in the Amazon Sales Charts where it is still often the number one best-selling book in it's category (Mass Transit)! Mark is hugely proud that his work has become the best-selling book about transport design.

His comprehensive work on the design of the French capital's transit system was published in October 2008 as "Paris Metro Style in map and station design". Penguin US commissioned an American version of it so Mark re-worked the concept, updated the content and it was published on October 24 2009 by Penguin as "Paris Underground, The Maps, Stations, and Design of the Metro".

Mark's next book, a follow-up to the popular transit maps offering, was 'Railway Maps of the World' and was first published by Viking Adult in May 2011 for the US market. It launched later that year in the UK as "Great Railway Maps of the World". He relocated to London to research his next project commemorating 150 years of Underground design. The new book: "London Underground by Design" will be published by Penguin in January 2013 for the Tube's anniversary.

He is also working on other follow-up books in the design field.

Mark now resides in his hometown of London where he also works as a freelance music programmer for All Around The World TV, writes comedy, gives lectures on transport design and is a freelance journalist/broadcaster.

Product Description


I wouldn't ordinarily enthuse about one book at such length, but this is an important work...not because it's an entertaining read (it is), but because it identifies the birth of a brand...and records the birth of a new idea - the transport interchange. (Kevin McCloud Grand Designs Magazine)

Mark Ovenden has devotedly documented the designs associated with [the Underground] ... "addictive" for anyone interested in the look of everyday life. (Telegraph)

A wonderful, handsome book ... it makes me want to nerd out, get a travel card and whiz out to the strange ends of Metroland or the UFO shape of Southgate station. (Robert Bownes/Andrew Tuck Monocle Weekly)

This beautifully illustrated history is a worthy tribute [to 150 years of design]. (Shortlist)

[Praise for Great Railway Maps of the World]: Just the ticket ... it is a glorious celebration of the pioneering history - and romance - of the railways (Sunday Times Travel Books of the Year 2011)

This is a terrific coffee table book. It's a work of art in itself. Mark Ovenden has created a book that will transport the lucky recipient on an eccentric and world tour they will not forget (Bookseller)

About the Author

Mark Ovenden is a British writer and broadcaster. His previous books are Metro Maps of the World , Paris Metro Style and Great Railway Maps of the World. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good book for the Tube 19 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you've ever taken the Tube in London, this book will engross you from the second you pick it up! It seems to be written from an incredibly accessible perspective: to inform both the lay person with the most casual interest through to those with some knowledge of the system, and the author claims even the experts will find something new in this. There is even a degree of humour (a spread on a famous station is headlined: "It's like Piccadilly Circus in here" - so refreshing to find a history book which doesn't take itself too seriously).

There are quite a few books on the Underground, but none that conveys the beauty and intelligence of its design like this cleverly put together and unputdownable compendium.

It starts with a beautifully crafted introduction by Channel 4's king of taste Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs) and immediately opens to reveal how even in 1863 (when the worlds first Underground was built) there was some attention to design detail (previously unacknowledged claims the author). The pictures and text just absorb you into detail you never knew you wanted to know but feel so satiated by having found out. The main section of the book gives unparalleled detail to the way the famous Underground "roundel" (its logo) was born - again this appears to be the first time such intricate detail have been so revealed.

There are many previously unpublished drawings and photos plus copious well-shot modern images from the classic 1930s stations right up to the Jubilee line and Overground.

The handy size and weight of this book give it practical pick-up-and-flick-through-ability and I for one was loathed to put it down even for a break - but a friend who took it after me just loved dipping in and looking up specific things.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating design history 3 Mar 2013
By Misha The Penguin VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Good design has been integral to the smooth operation of the London Underground yet most people using the tube will barely register more than the odd advertising poster. This book highlights the history of many aspects of design on the London Underground from its development in the 19th Century through to the present day.

Mark Ovenden delves into the history of everything from the London Underground logos through to station buildings, advertising posters and even the typeface used on signs and documents. Starting with the individual operating companies at the inception of the railways, the book is organised by historical period. This is the only slight issue I have with the book - and it is purely a personal one! It may have been better to group the chapters by category (such as logos, typefaces, advertising) etc which would have better showed the development. However this is a purely personal view and doesn't detract from the book. Indeed grouping in this way allows you to see the development of the social aspects of design throughout the ages - items such as posters and advertising give a fascinating insight into wider society and the selection of materials really gives a feel for the social norms at the time.

One of (many) excellent elements of the book is the recognition of the people behind the designs complete with pen portraits which is often missing from design books.

The quality of the pictures in the book is superb with excellent reproduction. The selection is also excellent and must have taken a while to select. This is a book you can read from cover to cover or just dip into. Now if Penguin would just issue a smaller handbook size to carry around on the Tube...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Design Works on the Underground 12 Feb 2013
This year is the sesquicentennial of the first subway line in London, the grandfather of all subway systems. There have been countless technological changes since then, and the system has become huge with connections all over the city and outside of it. The changes in technology are a mere side issue within _London Underground by Design_ (Penguin Books) by subway enthusiast Mark Ovenden. His subject is the look and design of trains, stations, maps, signage, and more. It is a comprehensive survey with capsule biographies of the planners and designers through the decades, and it fittingly has hundreds of pictures covering all aspects of the system's design. People take over a billion trips on the system every year; engines and cars do the work, of course, but Ovenden shows that matters of design are far from superficial, and that they make the system work more efficiently. It isn't a new lesson, that good design makes for an esthetic appeal as well as increasing job effectiveness, but it is vibrantly displayed here.

The Tube system grew from the first underground run by the Metropolitan Railway, and Ovenden suggests that even then there were some marks of a coherent style. Coherence was not a characteristic of signage, one of the most important aspects of design covered here. The sans-serif letters on signs had little unity, and as shown in many pictures here, were overwhelmed by commercial bills and posters. Everything changed when Frank Pick, Commercial Manager of the Underground and a hero in these pages for his emphasis on efficient design, commissioned Edward Johnston in 1913 to come up with a typeface to be used throughout the system. Johnston's creation, now known as Johnston Sans, has been a foundation of Underground design ever since.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Really really really nice book full of very very beautiful posters and visual treats to inspire and delight any designer.
Published 15 days ago by Clocopops
5.0 out of 5 stars london underground
this is a comprehensive read , this is deep . just as deep as the tunnels they describe . deep . deep . if you suffer from insomnia , suffer no more . read this blighter .
Published 1 month ago by raash cam
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
The book ends too soon. I think a lot more content could be added. but what is there is fascinating and a thoroughly interesting read for anyone.
Published 2 months ago by Dan
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice book
The book is really interesting and analyses in depth the growth of the London tube in the last century till nowadays.
Published 3 months ago by Michele
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done Mark Ovenden. Not for bedtime reading.
This book goes very deep (excuse the pun) It is fantastic and full of facts, nothing as been left out. Read more
Published 4 months ago by melvyn bailey
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything went well
Great book for London fans. Read it with great pleasure while riding the Tube last may. You will love it.
Published 6 months ago by Pedro Cordeiro
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting book
lots of good pictures and very informative great gift for any transport or London underground enthusiast
also a reasonable price
Published 8 months ago by miss k trimnell
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent exposition of 20th century design
There are few companies in the 20th Century that can claim to have been patrons of the arts, but the era of London Transport and its' constituent bodies is one which embraced... Read more
Published 8 months ago by The Penguin
5.0 out of 5 stars Ticks all of the boxes
The iconography of the Underground is legendary and this book has something for everyone. It tells of the graphic development and its adaptation into a tangible product to market... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ollerbarrow
4.0 out of 5 stars fabulous description of tube's history
amazing book, full of history of the underground. The pictures are remarkable. This could be a good coffee table book and a must have for all those after history and art. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mahesh
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