Perhaps the greatest poster series ever – some 5000 posters – was created by Frank Pick, the legendary head of the London Underground. London by 1900 was the biggest city in the world, and Pick wanted to use posters to build traffic on the new system’s underused lines in a handsome and friendly way.
The technique was primarily to focus on destinations, mostly leisure destinations, to increase nonessential, off-peak journeys. Early on he created one of the most enduring logos and design systems for the line that is still in use today, and hired a wide-ranging and brilliant array of illustrators to do the work. At the core up to his retirement in 1940 was Pick’s fine eye and endless creativity, discovering many fine artists such as McKnight Kauffer as well as inviting world famous designers such as John Hassall, Abram Games, Andre Marty, the Vorticist team know as Andrew Power, Zero, and Man Ray.
In the late Thirties, with war tensions simmering, the Underground promoted ways to get Londoners to extend their work day in London. One of the most creative designs was the rare 4-part poster series by Marc Severin, an accomplished Belgian artist who spent the decade in London. His posters used the Underground logo as a clock with the related activity – a light dinner at 5:30, movie at 6:15, dining and desserts at 9:30, and heading home at 10:30. These vibrant scenes of bustling restaurants, movie theatres (Ronald Coleman in If I were King) and nightcap-snacks were followed by The Way Home, one of the best late night city scenes to be found in poster art. Severin’s incisive caricature of Londoners heading to “the tube” perfectly evokes the rich tableau of big city life.