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Title: Pioneering policies

Pages: 36 - 47

                                    

Author: Editorial

Text: Design manangement Pioneering policies by Corin Huges - Stanton
Design management
Pioneering policies
by Corin Hughes-Stanton
London Transport was recently awarded one of the Royal Society of Arts' Presidential Medals for Design Management: it was one of the two organisations honoured for long pioneering in the field. This article sets London Transport's current design policies against their background of growth from independent, unco - ordinated beginnings, and briefly discusses the problems London Transport will be facing as it designs for the future. The work of the other medal winners will be discussed in the June and July issues.
London Transport had many births and, although it has been unified over the last 32 years, much of its present character and quality stem directly from its multiple beginnings. The first inner London railway was the Metropolitan Line from Paddington to Farringdon, opened just over 100 years ago. John Fowler was the engineer end John Hargrave Stevens the architect: a good start for one of the most complex urban transport systems in the world.
After that, new railways came thick and fast. Five years later, the District Railway stretched from High Street Kensington round to Westminster. By 1884 the Inner Circle had been completed, and six years afterwards the first electric railway-the City and South London - was open. Throughout this time there was continual bickering and rivalry between the companies, and the construction of the first section of the Central London Railway tube was strongly opposed by the Metropolitan and District Railways as well as by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral.
The next London tubes - Bakerloo, Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton (Piccadilly Line) and Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (Northern) - became part of the Underground group controlled by Charles Tyson Yerkes. By 1907 the London railways network was complete, and two important events took place.
Birth of the symbol
First, the London Passenger Traffic Conference was established (with Sir George Gibb as its chairman) to introduce a measure of co-operation between the different railway companies. This conference decided to use the "UndergrounD" symbol (designer unknown) on all its stations. The bull's eye sign (designer also unknown) was the symbol of the independent London General Omnibus Co, and the two symbols were not finally amalgamated until six years later in 1913. Although symbols are now the stockin trade of every graphic designer, this circle bisected by a horizontal line (adapted for station names and route signs) remains one of the best symbols ever devised in modern times.
In the same year Sir George Gibb, who was chairman of the
District Railway and deputy chairman of the Yerkes Underground group, appointed Albert Stanley (later Lord
Ashfield) to be general manager of railways in the Underground group. It was Lord Ashfield who created a unified transport system out of a collection of rival and conflicting companies. In 1910 he became managing director of the Underground group of companies, and then chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board when it was established in 1933. The period before and after the first war was mainly one of electrification and amalgamations. Even so, when the London Passenger Transport Board was set up it took under its wing over 170 railway, bus, coach, train and trolleybus undertakings. The board's policy from the start was to standardise design.
Standardisation - the first stages
Many types of buses were taken over, but except for the coaches serving the Green Line routes most of them have been doubledeckers. Standard models were introduced as soon as possible. The most important was the RT. Designed just before the second world war under the direction of Eric Ottaway, now a member of the board, and A. A. M. Durrant, then chief engineer (buses and coaches), it forms the largest and most highly standardised group of buses in the world (it was not, however, put into quantity production until 1945). It is a logical, highly efficient design, 7 ft 6 inches wide and 26 ft long, and seating 56 passengers. Mr Durrant, as chief mechanical engineer (road services), then led the design and development of the RM (Routemaster) bus which began service in 1959, and on which Douglas Scott collaborated (page 43, 32-36).
Meanwhile, between 1933 and 1949 the Underground spread out from its centre network to Cockfosters, High garnet, Epping and West Ruislip, serving and encouraging the spreading dormitory population. As with the buses, so with the railways. The rolling stock was brilliantly designed and continuously improved upon by a design team led by W. S. Graff - Baker.
But this development meant not only building new stations, but also modernising old ones. This too was superbly done, and the man who created those aspects of the system which the public notice most was Frank Pick. An administrator, he was perhaps the twentieth century equivalent of a Medici.He had joined the Underground group in 1906 and as commercial manager he sew that "to assemble artists and architects round such a vast business enterprise would be to bring Morris's ideals up to date". In 1915 - in the middle of a devastating war - he commissioned Edward Johnston to design a new type face. It created a revolution in British lettering, and even today there is no likelihood of its being superseded on London Transport. In 1933 Pick became vice-chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board and commissioned Charles Holden to design uncompromising stations. Through Holden's design for the LPTB's Broadway headquarters, Frank Pick became an early and controversial patron of Epstein, Eric Gill and Henry Moore.
But the designs being carried out within London Transport were equally important. Christian Barman was made responsible for the visual impact of the transport system. The detailing of moquettes, tiles, station seats, fare boards, ticket machines and bus shelters, as well as of the buses and trains themselves, all have a directness and fitness for purpose that have probably never been achieved before or since on such a large scale. Just to take one example, the standard ticket kiosks designed by S. A. Heaps (page 45, 46) are masterpieces of modern design, and only the shortage of staff makes them out of date.
Posters - a catholcity of patronage
As a patron, Frank Pick is most famous for the London Transport posters. The fascinating thing about them is not only their quality but their cathollcity too. To see within one series of commissions the best work of painters and designers like Fred Taylor and Graham Sutherland, Mabel Lucia Attwell and Edward Bawden, James Fitton, Betty Swanwick and John Burningham, Hans Unger and Tom Eckersley, John Minton, Dame Laura Knight and Ivon Hitchens is a remarkable experience.The posters have always been commissioned, first by Frank Pick and now by Harold Hutchison, the publicity officer. As Mr Hutchison points out, "We try to find the newcomers and also remember that the old chaps have to live". Once a year the selected posters are shown to the chairman and vice chairman. The work is never considered by a committee.
Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick have been criticised for being more interested in graphics than in transport planning, and are charged with contributing towards the subtopian sprawl around London. This is not really true. They were not asked to plan a transport pattern. They were asked to meet and satisfy a transport demand. But in meeting this demand with the finest standards of design and quality, they have enabled London Transport to satisfy a far larger share of the commuter traffic than might otherwise have been the case. Many urban transport systems are designed for the least well off and look like it. Lord Ashfield's great achievement was to produce a one-class transport system which is respectable as well as being handsome, clean and efficient. As a result the bowler hats have been as loyal to London Transport as have the cloth caps. This gave London an almost unique breathing space in which to plan for its foreseeable traffic problems. That the opportunity has not been taken is not the fault of London Transport. (caption)
The policy makers
1 - 3 London Transport's early design standards were set by these pioneers: Lord Ashfield, 1, who created a unified system out of a collection of rival companies; Frank Pick, 2, "the twentieth century equivalent of a Medici"; and W. 5. Graff - Baker, 3, leader of the design team responsible for railway rolling stock.
4 - 7 Members of the Design Panel are Eric Ottaway, 4, the chairman, K. J. H. Seymour, 5, architect, Misha Black, 6, design consultant, and Harold Hutchison, 7, is the publicity officer.
(caption)
8 - 11 Sir Alec Valentine, a, London Transport chairman until recently, set up the Design Panel two years ago; the new chairman is Maurice Holmes, 9. A. A. M. Durrant, so, chief mechanical engineer (road services) and A. W. Manser, it, chief mechanical engineer (railways) are two of the heads of department.
12 - 15 Other heads of department with an important design role are Dr L. G. Norman, 12 chief medical officer; H. E. Styles, 13 , director of research; Robert Dell,14, chief signal engineer; C. E. Dunton, 15, chief civil engineer.
Current design policy and management
The key to the success of London Transport's design policy is xtremely simple. It is to appoint the best possible men to head various departments, and then to expect them in their turn to appoint the best staff that can be found, ensuring all the time that design is part and parcel of every piece of equipment. London Transport design has always been functional: it has never been applied. This was the policy of Lord Ashfield, and it is still the policy today.
Frank Pick was one of the results of this policy. He is the best known, but he was not an isolated figure. W. S. Graff -Baker, until a few years ago the chief mechanical engineer (railway services), was not only a great engineer but also a brilliant administrator. Today, the work of men of the calibre of Sir Alec Valentine (the recently retired chairman), members of the board like Eric Ottaway and Anthony Bull, heads of departments like A. W. Manser, chief mechanical engineer (railways), C. E. Dunton, chief civil engineer, Robert Dell, chief signal engineer, and A. A. M. Durrant, chief mechanical engineer (road services), is the product of the same policy.
Authoritative teams
This policy had, and continues to have, four major effects. First, it means that London Transport has been able to build up teams of transport experts who are not just authoritative, but also inventive and creative. Second, the board is inclined to accept the advice of its experts. Third, design ideas are able to go up to the top as effectively as commands go down (this two - way channel is far too rare in industry, and is too often overlooked as an essential ingredient of successful management). Fourth, there is close and successful interdepartmental co - operation (again, this is an obvious necessity in a big organisation, but also one which is significant because of the degree of its working reality). Like any human organisation, London Transport has its problems, but everyone I spoke to said that the successful development of the Victoria Line rolling stock is largely due to the mutual respect and close working relationship between all the many specialist departments and divisions.
The London Transport Board is small and compact: it has four full-time members and three part-time members. To it report the heads of 23 departments. These are divided into four main groups, each under one of the four full-time board members. London Transport also has a Design Panel, set up two years ago by Sir Alec Valentine. The chairman is Eric Ottaway, and the rest of the panel is composed of the architect (K. J. H. Seymour), the publicity officer, and the design consultant (Professor Misha Black).
Decision making
The reason for the creation of this Design Panel was to produce new thinking. On the operating side the original design incentive came from Frank Pick. While the tradition has continued, the risk of the policy's running down became obvious. London Transport has recently moved into a period of new technology, and will soon be buying a lot of new equipment. The danger which faced the board was that inspiration might peter out and that design ideas conceived 25 years ago would get grafted, not necessarily suitably, on to the new equipment.
The Design Panel is not an executive body, nor does it discuss policy questions. Problems like the number of seats in a bus are not its concern. Nor does it report formally to the board. Its job is to question the projects put to it, and when necessary suggest possible improvements. The proposals for new equipment, large and small, are discussed by the panel with the operating managers and anyone else who might be involved in their use. In these discussions of the aesthetics and shape of the new equipment, the aim is to ensure that the necessary compromise between mechanical requirements and I design or ergonomic needs is the best rather than the easiest.
Mr Ottaway believes very strongly that design should not be superimposed. The board expects the creative aspects of new designs to come from the people on the job, be they engineers, doctors or graphic designers. Mr Ottaway says, "We never do anything for appearance's sake which will in any way detract from functional needs or efficiency". into all specifications are only those materials, processes and shapes which are the most efficient.
6 - 19, The origins of the famous London Transport symbol are obscure: but its better known developments, 17 - 19 seem to be closely elated to the symbol of the erstwhile London General Omnibus Co Ltd, 16
20 - 21 London Transport's concern to look after its passengers is exemplified in the rationalising of the early route map, 20, into its first diagrammatic form (by H. C. Beck) which deserves to be considered a graphic design classic, 21.
22 - 23 Inside its own vehicles, London Transport continues to inform or exhort with great rarity or force. The tube train line diagram, 23, , a lucid and logical development of 21. The rush hour poster, 22, also for tube trains, was designed by John Burningham and is a good example of London Transport's attention to detail.
Because London Transport has to live with what it designs, it cannot play with fashion or design premature obsolescence into its equipment. Although it no longer manufactures its buses and trains, both chief mechanical engineers have development sections which design rolling stock to take account of regular, fundamental overhauls. The reason is that while the manufacturers make the vehicles once, London Transport has to rebuild them many times.
Industrial designers are called in to help when specialist work is needed. For instance Professor Black, besides being on the Design Panel, is also design consultant for the Victoria Line, working with the chief mechanical engineer on the rolling stock and with the architect on the stations.
But, on the whole, designs are self-creating because they are outward signs of the balanced contribution of different departments. To see how this operates it is first necessary to look at the work of three departments which contribute to the design policy: publicity. research and medical.
24 The tube system is a complex one; but every effort has been made to enable the passengers to find their way about with as much confidence as possible. These direction signs (known as "bifurcation signs") can usually be assimilated fairly quickly.
25 Similarly helpful information is to be found at most bus stops. Again, there is a logical layout with plenty of space to avoid crowding and confusion.
Publicity and research
The publicity officer is responsible for every kind of printed matter used by the staff and public: posters, maps and diagrams, and rail, station, bus stop and lavatory signs. In the case of (say) the posters, he acts as an executive. In the case of station signs, he acts as consultant to the chief civil engineer, who is responsible for the tunnels, and to the architect, who is responsible for the stations. Together it is their job to decide the size and positioning of the signs in relation to the planned passenger flow. Then it is up to Mr Hutchison to ensure that they are easy and helpful to read. In the same way, before the decision was made to change to lower case lettering on the bus blinds, tests were carried out by the research laboratory for Mr Hutchison (DESIGN 152/56-58).
The director of research is H. E. Styles. Although his staff now includes some 60 scientists and technicians, the department started in a very small way in 1920 when the London General Omnibus Co decided that it would be a good idea to employ a chemist to test fuels and lubricants. For many years the department remained primarily a chemical laboratory attached to the bus services workshops. In 1949, when it was established as an independent department, its work spread into physics, metallurgy and engineering. In 1960 it moved into its new laboratories at Chiswick.
Research work
It carries out three main kinds of work. The first is to ensure that all materials used by London Transport are satisfactory for their purpose and represent value for money: not only does the laboratory test new materials, paints and processes, it also provides specifications for new materials, either working to BSI standards or (where this is not possible) devising special London Transport standards. The second is to find out why things have gone wrong and suggest how they can be put right. The third is long term research and investigation. This is mainly in physics and engineering. For instance, at the moment the laboratory is researching, on a testing machine designed and constructed at Nottingham University, the factors which affect the life of railway rolling stock axles. One technician is exclusively engaged on acoustics. Although, of course, he doesn't know how to design a train or a bus, he knows how to measure noise and what might be done to reduce it.
(caption)
26 - 29 The use of distinguished artists and designers is too well known to eed much explanation. Here, bold commissioning has deserved such awards as the superb Edward Johnston type face, 26, and Eric Gill's East Wind sculpture on the headquarters building, 27. The posters have been extraordinarily varied :,28 by John Hassall, 1908; 29 by E. McKnight Kauffer, 1924: 30 by William Roberts, 1951: and 31 by Fred Millett, 1962.
Although the medical department started in 1934, it was not until 1945 that it was established as a full health service under Dr L. G. Norman. Within a short time, environmental health work began to increase' At first the main work was inspecting bus depots, stations and canteens, and staff facilities, none of which can be built until approved by the chief medical officer. Because of increasing work the department was divided into two sections, clinical and environmental.
The latter, under Dr P. A. B. Raffle, is virtually a human factors section, and it is involved in the design of all the new equipment used by both public and staff. For instance, it is directly involved in the design of the train operator's cab in the new Victoria Line automatic trains, particularly these at and the equipment which will affect the sitting position and vision of the operators. It is also concerned with the design and layout of the new automatic ticket machines (where it has to advise on factors like how wide the entrances have to be, and which is the best way to put in the tickets). To make the machines accept the tickets is an electronic engineering job. To find out which way is the most convenient is an ergonomics job.
Departmental co-operation
The way in which the departments co-operate is illustrated by the design of the automatic trains. The principle was conceived by Robert Dell, the chief signal engineer. Subsequently, the development of the train equipment to match the track installations and circuitry for interpreting the track commands was worked out by the chief mechanical engineer's staff in collaboration with Mr Dell's department. At the same time the chief medical officer is involved with the ergonomics and layout of the cab, and the consultant designer with the visual aspects of the train and the detailing of the equipment, while the crews are running the experimental automatic trains and reporting on their operational efficiency. Everyone is striving to meet the broad requirements of the operating manager. In this way design is built into, and is part of, London Transport. It exists because it is part of an integral whole, and its management is seen as a basic necessity which gets the direct attention of all the different specialists.
New design developments
London Transport is continually introducing innovations and technical developments. But, except for the electrification of the Metropolitan Line and the rebuilding of one or two stations, there have not been any major changes since the implementation of the schemes started before the war.
The effect of the Design Panel and the far reaching developments introduced by various departments cannot be fully assessed until the Victoria Line is completed. But the projects which come into operation from 1967 onwards (and which are likely to affect the whole of the London Transport complex) started life during the period when it seemed that London Transport was hardly progressing at all.
Close links with past designs The Victoria Line involves the design of new rolling stock, new stations and new passenger handling equipment. Although the ultimate results will be revolutionary, they will not be a break with the past because they are an evolution that goes back to pre - war designs.
For example, the 1959/62 rolling stock is a logical development from the great 1938 tube stock designed by W. S. Graff - Baker. This stock is as handsome and modern today as it was 27 years ago. But the significance of these much praised electric tube trains does not lie in their powerfully satisfying visual appearance, which merely reflects the ultimate, and virtually timeless, perfection of their engineering. Even the superb interior detailing is engineering design. Although it is the most important example of the Bauhaus concept of design, it owed nothing to the Bauhaus influence. The 1959 tube stock on the Piccadilly Line and the 1962 tube stock on the Central Line are basically the 1938 tube stock clad in aluminium (for instance, the seating plan is the same, because the bogies have to be under the longitudinal seats since the tunnels restrict the height of the coaches. Where these restrictions do not apply - on the open tracks and on the cut - and - cover lines - there is much more scope for change in the exterior and interior design). It is for this reason that the A60 stock - introduced on the Metropolitan Line in 1960 - has far more interior design changes (page 46, 48-54).
However, London Transport also asked Cravens to develop a new tube train and gave the firm encouragement to propose innovations. This 1960 rolling stock has a slightly different profile from the other trains, with a deeper standback each side of the doors, double glazing, and combined ventilators and diagram maps above the windows. It is a batch of these sets which has been adapted to act as the experimental automatic trains on the Woodford/Hainault link of the Central Line.
The Victoria Line rolling stock (page 47, 55 and 57-59) will be heir to all these design developments. It will have frames and panelling of light alloy aluminium; like the 1960 stock it will have deep stand - back areas by the doors but with the original profile; again like the 1960 stock it will have double glazing and top lighting along the side monitorlines. lt will also have a driver - to - passenger public address system.
What is important is that the new industrial design detailing being carried out with the advice of the board's design panel is not merely an exercise in modernising the appearance of London Transport trains: it is the result of a genuine need to redesign those details of the rolling stock which have to change because of technical developments.
This is also true of the train operator's cab. The introduction of automatic control is not a clean break with the past. It is part of a long evolution toward greater automatic control which has been going on for many years. The difference in the Victoria Line trains will be that instead of being controlled by a driver they will be controlled by boxes situated under one of the seats in the front coaches.
The position is the same with the development work on the station automatic ticket machines, ticket scanners and checkers, and money changing machines. These are still at an early prototype stage, but they are heirs to a history of automatic machines and operating tools. For instance, the Gibson ticket machine - invented and designed within London Transport to replace the Bell Punch system - is now likely to be replaced by a ticket machine also being developed specifically to meet the needs of London Transport, for which Douglas Scott was commissioned to help.
Future development
London Transport, which has a long record of finely engineered buses, is not just sitting back now that it has its Routemaster buses. Although the number of people using buses in London has declined by 30 percent during the last 10 years, buses are likely to have en increasingly important transport role to play during the next decade. Therefore the development division is working on prototype designs for three possible new buses: a new Green Line coach, a frontloading pay - the - driver bus, and a standee bus.
But design, be it engineering or graphics, cannot exist in isolation. To be effective each detail must be a rational response to a wider Developments in buses design concept. Ultimately, London Transport will only hold its own through the design of things like the improvement of interchange facilities between rail, tube and buses, the introduction of a new Central London tube and the extension of the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines.
32-36 Buses have developed from the 1910 and 1921 designs of the London General Omnibus Co Ltd. 32 and 33, to the two current standard designs, the RT, 34, and the AM, 35. Coaches too are now standardised: 36 shows the RF coach for Green Line routes.
Designing for buses
Bus depots do not normally find their way into books on architecture. London Transport's stockwell garage, however, does just that, and is an example of distinguished building on an almost overpowering scale.
38-39 But quite small pieces of street furniture are not forgotten. The more modern of these two bus stop posts, as, represents a considerable advance over its predecessor, 38
Station exteriors
40 Hampstead station, opened in 1907, is an early example of semi-standardised station building . . .
41... but it was not until London Transport commissioned architects like Charles Holden to design its stations (this one is Arnos Grove) that it succeeded in obtaining a treatment that was satisfying rather than merely characteristic.
Station interiors
42 - 43 Tube platforms have not always avoided a certain claustrophobic, mine - like quality (42, Covent Garden); but the platform mock - up for the new Victoria Line 43 its basically similar, though distinctiy less oppressive. London Transport points out that its aim has been to create "a machine for getting on and off trains, not a display of architectural virtuosity
44 - 45 Platforms and concourse areas have a wide variety of treatments, most of them successful. The surface level platform at Cockfosters, 44, is a pre - war example of the experimental use of prestressed concrete. At the recently rebuilt concourse at Notting Hill Gate, 45, there is again a feeling of space although the low roof actually seems to emphasise the fact that one is entering an underground railway.
46 - 47 Station machinery is extraordinarily compact. The ticket kiosk, or "passimeter", is laid out to provide maximum efficiency for automatic and manual ticket issuing, change making, etc. Beside it, the automatic ticket machines look a little clumsy, although the prices and lists of stations are presented clearly enough.
Railway rolling stock
48-54 Once the loading gauge, 56, was established, there could be little very evident change in tube rolling stock. Most alterations have been of a detailed nature. Exteriors show: 1933 tube stock, 49;1959 tube stock, 51 and A60 1960 surface line stock, 53. Interiors show 1900 tube stock, 48; 1933 tube stock, so; 1959 tube stock, 52; and A60 1960 surface line stock, 54.
55-59, on the facing page, show the mock-up of the new Victoria Line trains. 57 shows the operator's compartment. While the passenger interior, 58, is similar to the layout and seating plan in so and 52, the restrictions of the loading gauge, 56, are such that major alterations are impossible.
Wider problems
Naturally, many planning ideas which need urgent consideration such as bus - only lanes on throughways - cannot be decided by London Transport alone. But, as Anthony Bull, a member of the board, recently said, "It is not possible to separate the provision of
The tube expands transport* facilities from the use to which land is put; land use and transport act and react on each other."
The significance of Sir Alec Valentine's chairmanship of the London Transport Board has been his initiation and support of a new design policy, coupled with his success in making the public realise, in the short time since 1959, that it is necessary to have a properly co - ordinated and rationally planned public transport system. The new chairman, Maurice Holmes, has the very considerable task of creating such a system. The degree to which a good design management policy is valid will depend on the success of London Transport in this wider area of design.
55-59 Detail advances made in the Victoria Line trains include: deeper stand back spaces at the doors, deeper door windows which make station names easier to see, 59; double glazed windows, and split level arm rests
for comfortable sharing, 58; and wrap round windows for the operator's cab, which is deeper than on existing trains and has more leg room, 55 and 57,

 

 

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