Original sketch for the London Underground Railways Map thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 74

Original sketch for the London Underground Railways Map

Drawing
1931 (Drawn)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

All versions and imitations of the modern London underground map derive from this first rough sketch. Beck, an electrical engineer and draughtsman, applied the principles of drawing complex electrical circuitry as an idealized diagram to map making, showing only the relationships and not the distances between various points. The geographically accurate map that had been in use since 1919 was becoming difficult to read, as the inclusion of the new stations in the suburbs to scale meant that the inner areas showed the central stations in a confusing cluster. This apparently simple and obvious idea of a diagram was completely new, and took some time to be accepted by the management, although the public took to it immediately. Virtually all metro systems throughout the world now use Beck's idea.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pencil and coloured inks on squared paper pasted onto card
Brief Description
Original sketch for the London Underground Railways Map, 1931. Henry C. Beck
Physical Description
Rough sketch showing London Underground lines in a crude diagrammatic form
Dimensions
  • Height: 190mm
  • Width: 240mm
Marks and Inscriptions
Inscribed on back in red ink 1 TOP and labelled with a typed notice and signed by the donor, with details of the design etc.
Gallery Label
Henry C. Beck (1901-1974) Original Sketch for the London Underground Railways Map. 1931 Pencil and coloured inks on squared paper All versions and imitations of the modern London underground map derive from this first rough sketch. Beck, an electrical engineer and draughtsman, applied the principles of drawing complex electrical circuitry as an idealized diagram to map making, showing only the relationships and not the distances between various points. This apparently simple and obvious idea was completely new, and took some time to be accepted by the management, although the public took to it immediately. Virtually all metro systems throughout the world use Beck's idea. Given by Ken Garland Esq. E.814-1979
Credit line
Given by Ken Garland Esq
Object history
This diagram was given by Henry Beck to Ken Garland in 1965. A printed copy of the first edition of the completed map, dated 1-[19]33 and of the second, presumed also to be 1933, were also given by Mr Garland to the Museum in 1979. See nos. E.815-1979 and E.816-1979.
Subject depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
All versions and imitations of the modern London underground map derive from this first rough sketch. Beck, an electrical engineer and draughtsman, applied the principles of drawing complex electrical circuitry as an idealized diagram to map making, showing only the relationships and not the distances between various points. The geographically accurate map that had been in use since 1919 was becoming difficult to read, as the inclusion of the new stations in the suburbs to scale meant that the inner areas showed the central stations in a confusing cluster. This apparently simple and obvious idea of a diagram was completely new, and took some time to be accepted by the management, although the public took to it immediately. Virtually all metro systems throughout the world now use Beck's idea.
Bibliographic References
  • Ken Garland: The design of the London Underground Diagram Penrose Annual 1969 (Vol.62) pp. 68- 82
  • Ken Garland: Obituary, Henry C Beck Design Magazine, December 1974
  • Lambert, Susan. Drawing, Technique & Purpose. London: Trefoil Books, ca. 1984.no.191
  • ed. Tom Harper Maps and the 20th Century : Drawing the Line London : The British Library, 2016.
  • Gay, Bernard, Classics of Modern Design, London : Camden Arts Centre, 1977no. 111
Collection
Accession Number
E.814-1979

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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