London Transport at London’s service

This was the slogan LT used whenever they did something that the public would loathe, such as getting rid of trolleybuses. But in 1951 LT took its obligation to inform the public seriously, as its emphasis on the quality of its information design in this advertisement placed in the Festival of Britain Guide shows.

Cox, Ian. South Bank Exhibition | Festival of Britain | Guide (London: HMSO, 1951), p. xxii

Symbols clashing everywhere

Keith Tam’s second-year students from the School of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University visited Reading today to see items from the Isotype collection and work by our MA students. Here they are looking at examples of Russian IZOSTAT charts.

Gill on a Ghost

The new Rolls-Royce Ghost (yours for $245,000) features a start-stop button engraved with a stencil version of Gill Sans.

Picture from the New York Times

Classic texts for elections

Boris Johnson is the latest in a long line to discover the Roman handbook to electioneering, Quintus Tullius Cicero’s Commentariolum Petitionis: Chairman Boris’s thoughts are here.

Over at OUP’s blog, there’s a nice parallel drawn by Nicholas Shrimpton between Anthony Trollope’s Plantagenet Palliser and our own Gordon Brown. (It might be worth mentioning that Palliser stays in power for 3 years, albeit at the head of a coalition government …)

Eric flies United

The new identity for the proposed merger of Continental and United Airlines features a seriffed typeface, Perpetua Bold. Back in the 1970s, when Negus & Negus designed a logo for the newly-merged British Airways, Dick Negus chose Plantin Bold to replace the sanserif BEA and BOAC logos. Dating from the 1990s, Newell & Sorrell’s Mylius still adorns British Airways planes. On the sanserif side, KLM and Lufthansa retain thier 1960s logos: F. H. K. Henrion’s extended grotesque and Otl Aicher’s Helvetica respectively.

PS I notice that Continental Airlines checked out this post at 21.59 today.

Socrates in pictures

In this week’s TLS, Martha C. Nussbaum writes about the place of the arts in education, and bemoans the threat of education policy directed solely towards economic growth: ‘Citizens cannot relate well to the complex world around them by factual knowledge and logic alone. The third ability of the citizen, closely related to these two, is what we can call the narrative imagination.’

Nussbaum, from the remainer of the article, is clearly thinking of the ability of the arts to foster sympathy, ‘the ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a person different from oneself, to be an intelligent reader of that person’s story’. The imaginative and abstract arts may be the key enablers of such ‘sympathy’, but narrative imagination, and the transformation of factual knowledge into action, can also be served by the humbler graphic arts. Otto Neurath’s vision of Isotype as an enabler of democracy through the clear presentation of data, and in a way that told a story rather than as an abstraction, surely provides us with an example of design being used for the Socratic ideal of an informed citizenship.