Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Wonderground Map

In 1914 London's Underground was frequently overcrowded, filthy and confusing. Frank Pick, the network's commercial director, wanted to lighten up the often tense atmosphere. He hired MacDonald Gill to design the "Wonderground" map, a whimsical cartoon map of the system full of jokes, puns and various other cute touches.
Copies of the map were hung in every station and it became an instant hit. There were reports of people missing trains, sometimes intentionally, because they were too busy looking at the details. The map makes London look like a cheerful medieval town, the feeling partially achieved by the coats of arms along the map's border and the fantasy architecture of the station entrances.
Here's an example of one of the puns, where the giraffe is "fed up."
In another joke, Russia is listed as one of the "villages."
Here, we have a poisonous reservoir and a horse that takes solace in carrots.

On the eve of World War I, the map took on many of the political and cultural events in a lighthearted fashion. For some soldiers leaving for the front, this may have been their last impression of London.

The map can be explored from this BBC News Magazine page. 

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