Gill, The Wonderground Map of London Town (1914)

Formed by exiled Chicago entrepreneur Charles Yerkes (see previous entry), the “United Underground Group,” along with the remaining independent subway lines, agreed on a joint marketing strategy in 1908 that featured the now familiar logo with a red disk and the word “Underground.” This logo was to be placed at all subway stations, and official and commercially produced maps swiftly adopted the distinctively lettering of the logo as well as the brand “Underground” and “London Underground.” The marketing director for the United Electric Railways Company, Frank Pick, approached the firm of Johnson, Riddle & Co. to develop maps for the newly branded system. In 1913, Pick commissioned the architect, designer, and illustrator MacDonald Gill (1884-1947) to create a promotional map for the Underground to be posted at stations throughout the system. The genius of Gill’s map rests on its juxtaposition of historical forms of representation, London’s iconic cultural and historical landmarks, and the modern convenience of the Underground. And, with a bit of whimsy and brilliant color, it succeeds both in making the Underground into something more than a means of conveyance—into an attraction in its own right. The “Wonderground Map” was instrumental in the economic revival of the Underground, and it deserves a place among the most successful examples of advertising cartography ever produced. Its cheery view of London helped distract city residents from the dismal realities of the Great War. It launched as well Gill’s career as a commercial artist (in the course of which he made many other maps), and was an inspiration to the emergence of color pictorial promotional widespread throughout North America and Europe in the interwar years.

 

PRINT

Barker, T. C. and Michael Robbins. A History of London Transport, 2 vols. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1963.

Braun, Robert. “Macdonald Gill.” Commercial Art, 2 (1927): 205-207.

Burdon, Elizabeth. “The Cartographic Impact of MacDonald Gill’s Wonderground Map of 1913.” Unpub. Ms., the Newberry Library

Wolmar, Christian. The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever. London: Atlantic Books, 2005.

 

WEB

The Guardian. “100 Years of the Underground.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/series/150-years-of-the-underground

Transport for London. “London Underground.” https://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/culture-and-heritage/londons-transport-a-history/london-underground.

Walker, Caroline. “MacDonald Gill, 1884-1947: Mapmaker, Graphic Designer, Letterer, Architect”. www.macdonaldgill.com

 

MacDonald Gill, The Wonderground Map of London Town (London: Westminster Press, 1914). The Newberry Library, map6F G5754.L7A6 1914 .G5