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Iconic Signs of London

London Underground Signs
TfL's Tube map and "roundel" logo are instantly recognisable by any Londoner, almost any Briton, and many people around the world.

TfL licences the sale of clothing and other accessories featuring its graphic elements and it takes legal action against unauthorised use of its trademarks and of the Tube map. Nevertheless, unauthorised copies of the logo continue to crop up worldwide.

Edward Johnston designed TfL's distinctive sans-serif typeface, in 1916. The typeface is still in use today although substantially modified in 1979 by Eiichi Kono at Banks & Miles to produce "New Johnston". It is noted for the curl at the bottom of the minuscule l, which other sans-serif typefaces have discarded, and for the diamond-shaped tittle on the minuscule i and j, whose shape also appears in the full stop, and is the origin of other punctuation marks in the face. TfL owns the copyright to and exercises control over the New Johnston typeface, but a close approximation of the face exists in the TrueType computer font Paddington, and the Gill Sans typeface also takes inspiration from Johnston.

The TFL Roundel
The origins of the roundel, in earlier years known as the 'bulls-eye' or 'target', are obscure. While the first use of a roundel in a London transport context was the 19th-century symbol of the London General Omnibus Company - a wheel with a bar across the centre bearing the word GENERAL - its usage on the Underground stems from the decision in 1908 to find a more obvious way of highlighting station names on platforms. The red circle with blue name bar was quickly adopted, with the word "UNDERGROUND" across the bar, as an early corporate identity. The logo was modified by Edward Johnston in 1919.

roundels signs transport for london

Each station displays the Underground roundel, often containing the station's name in the central bar, at entrances and repeatedly along the platform, so that the name can easily be seen by passengers on arriving trains.

The roundel has been used for buses and the tube for many years, and since TfL took control it has been applied to other transport types (taxi, tram, DLR, etc.) in different colour pairs. The roundel has to some extent become a symbol for London itself.

The 100th anniversary of the roundel was celebrated by TfL commissioning 100 news works that celebrate the design.

More iconic signs in London...

New Scotland Yard Sign
New Scotland Yard Sign
London Underground Sign
Punch and Judy Pub Sign

Portobello Road

Carnaby Street

Abbey Road

To cyclists this hill is dangerous

London Underground Sign
London Underground Roundel Sign

Did you know...

  • The underground sign has featured in many movies and television shows including Sliding Doors, Tube Tales and Neverwhere.
  • The Underground has also featured in music such as The Jam's "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight"
  • After placing a number of spoof announcements on her web page, London Underground voiceover artiste Emma Clarke had further contracts cancelled in 2007.
  • The London Underground map serves as a playing field for the conceptual game of Mornington Crescent.
  • The modern stylised Tube map evolved from a design by electrical engineer Harry Beck in 1933. It is characterized by a schematic non-geographical layout (thought to have been based on circuit diagrams) and the use of colour coding for lines.