"... (Beck) was as absorbed as ever with the more or less continuous task of updating and improving (the Underground Map). The Becks' whole house would be strewn with the clutter of work in progress, even the bedroom: Nora, his wife, would find little piles of sketches under his pillow when she made the bed in the morning. And his niece ... recalls seeing very large copies of the Diagram covering the living room carpet as he crawled over them making amendments." ‒ from MR BECK'S UNDERGROUND MAP
"Beck's long custodianship of the Diagram had understandably induced in him a passion for detail that sometimes appeared obsessive." ‒ from MR BECK'S UNDERGROUND MAP
Gee, you think?
As I shamelessly admitted in my review of Underground, Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube, riding the Underground ("Tube") could front as the essence of my pure, unadulterated joy at being in London. I love the escalators, the advert posters, the occasional busker in busy tunnels, the Tube logo and maps, the Cadbury dispensers, the "Mind the Gap" announcements, the smell and blow of the air along the platform as a train approaches, the sway of a moving car (especially when standing and steadied by a hand-grip), and the magic of descending into a hole in the ground and emerging across town at my desired destination. The experience provides a rush both literally and figuratively.
My first visit to London was in 1975, some fifteen years after Henry Beck lost design control of his famous Underground Map, which was first published for the public's use in 1933. But even today in other custodians' hands, the Map is obviously the direct descendent of Beck's brilliant conception. Honor is due from anyone who has "minded the gap."
MR BECK'S UNDERGROUND MAP by Ken Garland is a beautiful work of tribute to Henry's graphic. Sandwiched between sections dealing with Underground maps pre and post Beck is a comprehensive narrative summary of the evolution of Beck's Diagram while in his hands from 1931 to 1960. The hardcover, nearly square at 10.75 by 9.75 inches, is filled with full color reproductions of Beck's map as it evolved over the years. As the Underground itself is enormously complex, so is the map. Yet, each revised version is lucidly described in each reproduction's caption as well as in the body of the book's text. Moreover, in the latter, the appearance in time of each version is clearly referenced in relation to the previous and Beck's changes ‒ sometimes only minor ‒ described.
If your eyesight is failing with age, such as mine, or even if it isn't, a magnifying glass at hand is advisable when examining the maps and perhaps when reading their captions.
Garland's volume contains a section of enormously illustrative Appendices, e.g. rough pencil sketches done by Beck to help him solve design problems. Perhaps one of the most interesting is a two-page spread depicting the Tube's true geographic scale vs. its diagrammatic distortion on the Underground Map. It's this inclusion which best illustrates Henry's genius compared to what came before.
MR BECK'S UNDERGOUND MAP was published in 1994, and the latest Diagram included is the 1994 Journey Planner, which was constructed "to incorporate all known projected extensions and new lines." A worthwhile visual exercise is to compare this with a 2014 map of London's rail system. (You'll immediately notice on the latter the Overground system, something conspicuously missing from the former. Can you imagine the single-minded delight with which Beck would've dealt with that challenge to his creation?)
MR BECK'S UNDERGROUND MAP is a niche book only for Tube aficionados and graphic designers. For me, who gives away vastly more books than he keeps for lack of library space, it will have a permanent home on the shelf of "keepers."
This book is a biography of the professional life of Harry Beck as inventor and developer of the London Underground diagram as we now know it. The book is very well illustrated, with many full page colour maps from the entire 30 year period Beck worked on the diagram, as well as some earlier and later examples -- which themselves prove just how brilliant a desgner Beck was. It includes two previously unpublished Beck diagrams and an appendix section which features a selection of Beck's working sketches and variations, including a proposal for the Paris Metro diagram. The book itself was specially designed so that it's shape could best display the poster-diagrams as full page illustrations. It is intended for a general readership, but would also suit anyone particularly interested in maps, graphic design, or the history of London.
The definitive book on Harry Beck's classic diagram. Lovely hardback large format book 11" X 10" (reprinted edition 2003) with 80 pages ; 40 of which contain beautifully illustrated colour diagrams (many full page size) of the various maps issued from 1908-1964 but mainly about Beck's diagrams from his original sketch in 1931 until his last diagram in 1964. It charts the many alterations to the original design and contains a wonderfull apppendix that has over 10 pages of original experimental sketches. An excellently researched and thoroughly enjoyable book by Ken Garland.
How does a simple diagram become a design icon? This short, profusely-illustrated and well-written book shows how Beck's Diagram evolved from earlier more geographically-correct maps of the Underground system through a myriad of variations into the forms we're still familiar with today. The Diagram is constantly changing although instantly familiar to any visitor to London - so as well as the fascination of the evolution of the style of the diagram there's also the ever-changing history of the Underground itself to consider.
As someone with absolutely no interest in maps , graphic design or the London Underground i shouldn't care a jot about this book or who the heck Harry Beck was . WRONG ! I picked it up while browsing in a bookshop and was instantly enthralled and plunged into Harry's world (and indeed obsession ) . It really is a marvelous and fascinating read and i was hooked from beginning to end ( you end up caring about trivial , tiny alterations to the design ! ). If you had told me 3 days ago i would care about diagonal or vertical lines for a railway map i'd have laughed in your face , what a tribute to the author of this book and HC Beck that i loved it from start to finish .
This book is great if you are a fan of the London underground or the maps. The book covers the maps over the years, starting at the beginning of the century all the way to the present day. You can see the differences between how they started and how they ended. I think it is absolutely fascinating!