Design is fine. History is mine.
London underground map: 1 Sketch Henry C. (Harry) Beck, 1931. Pencil and coloured ink. 2 Fred Stingemore, pocket map, 1930-32. 3 Harry Beck, First edition of the diagram, 1933
The iconic map, which has been in use since 1933, is in fact a diagram of the network. It shows relationships rather than distances to scale and uses only vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, with different colours for each of the Tube lines. The map has become a design classic, implicitly demonstrating the importance of simplicity, economy and utility – all key values promoted by Modernist design. Yet it was devised and produced by an engineering draughtsman, Harry Beck, after he had been made temporarily redundant by London Underground. Beck reasoned that, ‘If you’re going underground, why do you need bother about geography? … Connections are the thing’. Although often assumed to be based on electrical circuit diagrams, his ‘geoschematic’ map was apparently modelled on sewer mapping. Read more: V&A Modernism: Designing a new world