How to design a London Underground Station
December 3, 2015 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Transport for London recently released a comprehensive set of design guidelines for building works on their stations. I don't think I'll look at an underground station in the same way again.

The London Underground has a long history of creating iconic architecture and incorporating art into its stations.
posted by emilyw (17 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
"It starts with the roundel" Why yes, indeed, it does.

What a lovely document.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:14 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd like to believe that the Laundry (as in MeFi's Own cstross' Laundry Files) has an extra couple of pages that are classified that include design elements not to incorporate so as to avoid accidentally summoning Gozer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:18 PM on December 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh good, I was going to post this more digestible version, once I finished reading it.

I was lucky enough to hit one of the London Transport Acton Depot tours last time I was in London. It was really interesting - we saw a lot of the original art and signage, as well as some of the trains. The big group who made up most of the tour had to leave early, so I got a personal tour of the walls of old maps, which was just great. You could really tell how interested in all the history the guides were.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:09 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like that there is the admonition to "Delight and surprise." So many mass transit stops in my neck of the world (New England) adhere to the principle "Dismay and alarm."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:26 PM on December 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thank you for a lovely FPP and also the digestible link
posted by infini at 2:34 PM on December 3, 2015


Don't miss the detailed palettes for each "genre" of station. It's great work but the small print seems to be that only these genres will continue to be supported. Distinctions between the house styles of various Victorian railway companies will be lovingly retained, whilst any design since 1971 and not on the Jubilee Line (or Hatton Cross) appears to be one refurbishment away from the skip. No place here for the postmodern enamel blocks at Bank, or the 80s geometric art at Euston and Embankment.

On the plus side, the bronze sheet ceilings of the 2015 Palette will make more stations look like supervillain lairs.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


make more stations look like supervillain lairs

One vote here for piranha pools at Neasden and Swiss Cottage.
posted by sobarel at 2:42 PM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It starts with the roundel"

Not to be confused with the Stockholm subway design idiom, which is more "hey, we're inside a mountain!" (more).
posted by effbot at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]



I'd like to believe that the Laundry (as in MeFi's Own cstross' Laundry Files) has an extra couple of pages that are classified that include design elements not to incorporate so as to avoid accidentally summoning Gozer.


That's the deeply classified Section 3 of the document, it's classified MIND GAP.
posted by eriko at 2:56 PM on December 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Stockholm subway design idiom is based on IKEA naming guides, except for telefonplan - that's prepaid
posted by infini at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


As lovely as the guidelines are, I'm concerned the new standard design for escalators and corridors is basically scientist holding a glowing test tube blue.
posted by zachlipton at 3:35 PM on December 3, 2015


Thankyouthankyouthankyou ...
posted by carter at 5:01 PM on December 3, 2015


It's actually interesting how much thought they've put into advertising space and integrating the advertising.

Also it took me a few minutes to realize "Idiom Park" was not a new station.

I read the whole thing and I feel like I know a lot about lighting subway stations now. Also, it's a bit mad that London is only just getting to overnight tube service.

I'm a little surprised they don't use the color of the lines in the station colors more, that seems intuitive to me but apparently isn't the right way to do it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 PM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised they don't use the color of the lines in the station colors more, that seems intuitive to me but apparently isn't the right way to do it.

It becomes unintuitive very quickly at stations where you have more than one line (which is a lot of them).

Nicole (author of the "easily digestible" piece) discovered that TfL were working on the Idiom about a year ago and it took us almost that long to persuade them to give us access to the design people behind it. In the end we agreed to hold off publishing that article online until it was officially unveiled, but they did allow us to run it in the November magazine issue which was nice.

With regards to the Idiom itself, I think it's easy to underestimate how much they've thought about lighting as part of this. That's something the concept images don't really capture. They really want to rethink how stations are lit and use that as a proxy for signage wherever possible.

Interestingly, one of the big barriers they see to doing the stuff in the Idiom well isn't money or time, but "sticker fairies" - well-meaning local station managers or staff who add extra signage because they don't understand the psychology of using design to keep people moving and get them to where they want to go. Helping ops people understand that is something they know they've massively overlooked in previous exercises like this.

Will certainly be interesting to see how successful they are with this. From my own conversations (and those which Nicole had for the LR article) there was clearly a genuine realization amongst key figures within the organisation after the 150 celebrations that they're still really trading on the design legacy, rather than adding to it. This means that, for now at least, there's senior buy-in to really do something about design on the network, not just pay lip-service to it.

If Hunter and co. can channel that into reality the way they want to, then the results should be really impressive indeed.
posted by garius at 1:52 AM on December 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Amazing what you can do with a heavily unionised, high wage, public body that manages to run more efficiently than its private counterparts. It has enough cultural headroom to care deeply about the balance of aesthetics and functionality in its infrastructure.
posted by Devonian at 3:51 AM on December 4, 2015


We should take a moment to appreciate the work of the UK Design Council, the UK Policy Design Lab and of course, gov.uk, behind the scenes in helping people see why they should care deeply.
posted by infini at 4:35 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are there examples of the various station's "delight and surprise" elements?
posted by history is a weapon at 1:25 AM on December 9, 2015


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