London Underground Iconic Logo: The roundel logo used for the London Underground is perhaps one of the most recognized icons in London. Although this logo is seen just about everywhere in London, few people pause to think about the meaning or history of the image. Despite this inattention, the London Underground logo has a deep and long history that would surprise many people in London and all over the UK.
The London Underground logo as we know it today was developed in 1908, when the London General Omnibus Company wanted a graphic, easily identifiable way of marking public transportation stations. Although the red circle with a blue crossbar was adopted at this time, the logo was modified again in 1919 to the version we know today to accommodate a new, specially created font. From there, this logo design has changed very little and become a well-recognized symbol of London.
The meaning of the logo to the people who designed it is unknown, but it is easy to make a few guesses as to the feeling they were trying to portray to both Londoners and tourists. First, a roundel is the shape of a wheel, the most commonly seen device in transportation. Second, the red roundel creates a bull’s-eye effect, drawing in attention and increasing visibility. Third, it ties into the popular nickname ‘The Tube’, as it appears to be a tube when looking down it head-on. Last, a circle is an inclusive shape, so this most plebeian form of transportation may have been trying to advertise its availability to Londoners of all social classes.
The colour is also significant. Although a variety of colour schemes are now used to denote different stations and different modes of transportation, the original red and blue remains a standard. It should be noted that this uses the exact colours of the Union Jack, making this London institution a decidedly British one as well.
Throughout the decades, the roundel has become so synonymous with London that it has been used in many different forms in British pop art and even by the iconic British band The Who. At one point, the roundel was a commonly used symbol embraced by members of the Mod movement because of its links to urban life. Clearly this simple logo design is much more than a circle and a crossbar; it symbolizes the very best and most unique that the UK has to offer.
Today, every bus and Tube station in London bears this well recognized logo design. Because this logo has seen its 100th anniversary come and go with much fanfare, it is easy to predict that this design will be one we are seeing for years to come. No longer symbolic of just London, the Underground roundel is a symbol of a nation on the go. It is also representative of the power of logo design. The message of the London roundel is that a simple but highly relevant image can last the test of time when created by a qualified logo designer.