Roundels 1934–1947

We’ll be looking at some developments within the highlighted section of the timeline diagram:


New design: New text, wide bar, different outlining

In July 1933 the London Passenger Transport Board was created (usually just called ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’), and a few months later a new ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel was designed for this ‘top level’ of all the companies involved. It appears to have been created by artists of the printers Waterlow & Sons with some guidance by Edward Johnston.

The following figure demonstrates that most elements of the ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel are taken from the 1917 ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel: bar and circle, colours, large and small letters, and the ‘ribbons’ above and below them. Some elements are new or altered though:

  • The lines around bar and circle are bolder.
  • One line – the one inside the circle – is completely new.

The text on the bar is modified. This may be trivial, but the consequences aren’t: There is more text now, therefore the bar is widened, and four letters are placed beyond the circle. Furthermore, the original idea of using the larger letters as bookends is obviously lost on the letters L and T that contain a lot of empty space facing the centre of the roundel.

The ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel shown above is constructed, trying to show it as it was often applied. Two decisions need to be mentioned:

  • I decided to colour the lines on both sides of the circle red (and not black) because these lines usually were red on posters and line diagrams.
  • With regard to the width of the bar I chose to follow very closely a drawing or print shown in Mark Ovenden, London Underground by Design, p. 186. It appears that the bar was usually about that wide. But it’s important to note that a number of different images of the‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel can be found, and the width of the bar varies quite strongly.

Three proofs

The following proofs are in the holdings of the Crafts Study Centre (C.86.134.iii/iv/v). It appears that Johnston commented on them, and was consulted over the colours (see Justin Howes, Edward Johnston: A Catalogue of The Crafts Study Centre, Collection & Archive, p. 131). Three things can be pointed out:

  • None of the lines to the circle are black.
  • The bar is considerably less wide than in the figure shown above.
  • The proof on the left-hand side has a few flaws in the bar: ribbons and letters are not very well aligned. The two other proofs are corrected in that regard, probably according to Johnston’s comments.


The ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel with lines and ‘ribbons’ was used from 1934 until about 1947. It wasn’t used very frequently because for all purposes related to the Underground the ‘UNDER­GROUND’ roundel was used.

The ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel was used at bus stops, probably in most cases as a thin roundel (not illuminated) with white counters (part silhouette). And it was used a few times on maps and line diagrams, and on posters.

The ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel


When the ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel was created, five other roundels were also created or at least redesigned:

  • GENERAL [buses],

The text ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ was set in the upper and lower counters of these roundels. This obviously had the consequence that there were no silhouette roundels (void counters) of that design; apart from a few exceptions, that is.

I will only comment on the ‘UNDERGROUND’ roundel. It looked about like this:

This roundel basically looks like the ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ roundel , but the bar is considerably less wide, and the large letters U and D have moved towards the centre of the roundel. This roundel has lost the earlier ‘Johnston proportions’.

Again I choose to draw red lines outside the circle because that seems to have been usual. The following roundels have been taken from maps / line diagrams printed in 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1937:

However, the following drawing No. A.N. 7000 shows that engineers again had a preference for black lines. This drawing from the mid-1930s can be found in the London Transport Museum database (twice: here and here) and several times in books on the Underground or Edward Johnston (e.g. in Mark Ovenden, Johnston & Gill. Very British Types, p. 61).

‘UNDERGROUND’ roundels outside stations

Roundels outside the stations were now designed according to the new standard. The following photographs show the narrow bar and the new line on the inside of the circle. Note that – just like in the preceding period – the roundels are only similar, not identical. Compare the construction of the three bars, for instance: They are all made in a different way. The roundel at ruislip station is even a full silhouette roundel, lacking the white counters with the text ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’. Silhouette roundels seem to have been the exception, but there were a few of them (they can be seen in photographs of Morden station, LTM 1998/58826, Swiss cottage station, LTM 1998/49059, and Stanmore station, LTM 1998/89439).

Chancery Lane station, 1934 (LTM 1998/57812);

King’s Cross station, 1946 (LTM 1998/56320);

Ruislip station, 1935 (LTM 2006/16442).

Are there any roundels from 1934–1947 still in place?

That is a difficult question. Not only because it’s hard to tell how old the material is, but also because most roundels are made from several elements, and in many cases just some elements were ‘updated’ and the rest wasn’t. Three examples:

Roundel outside Rayners Lane station

Left: Picture taken in 1948 (LTM 1998/88839). Right: Picture taken in 2017. The City of London’s Collage website has an interesting picture from in between, taken in 1976 (see here).

Maybe the original metal elements are still in place, freezing the proportions of this roundel. But the rest is definitely newer. Today’s roundel is probably a blend of

  • proportions and some material dating from the 1930s (when the station was rebuilt),
  • a circle without white lines, dating from the 1950s,
  • and at some time the text ‘LONDON TRANSPORT’ has been removed from the white counters, but the design of the bar (text with ribbons) was left unchanged (which is a bit inconsequent).

Roundels outside Mile End station

Left: Picture taken in 1948 (LTM 1998/88803). Right: Picture taken in 2017; roundel in place since 2001 or earlier.

Maybe the situation is similar to the one at Rayners Lane station. It is quite likely that the metal elements (that tend to freeze proportions) are from about 1946, but all content was ‘updated’, probably a few decades later: the new circle is unlined, the new counters have no text, and the text on the bar is designed in a different way. (See here for a note on when the large letters U and D were dropped.)

Roundels outside Acton Town station

From left to right:

  • Roundel in place at least from 1934 until 1936 (LTM 1998/59783);
  • Roundel in place at least from 1973 until 2008 (Flickr, schijvenaars);
  • Roundel in place at least from 2009 until 2015 (Google Street View);
  • Picture taken in 2017.

The oldest roundel shown here was a roundel of ‘Johnston proportions’ (c. 1917–1933). Today’s roundel is of new material and of a ‘heritage’ design drawing from the past. But it’s not the original roundel that was revived; proportions and lining are different.

Station name roundels

It is remarkable that the station name roundels on the Underground platforms were not influenced by the new drawings. Still the ‘HILLINGDON’-type and the ‘PERIVALE’-type roundels were used to display the station names, with the same proportions and lines as before.

Simplified roundels

From about 1935 two kinds of simplified roundels could be seen.

On one hand there were new roundels on posters. They simply consisted of a bar and a circle. There was no text on the bar, and the roundels lacked the usual decorative elements, namely names and ribbons. Such roundels were used in large numbers; here’s one example:

Poster by Charles Pearce, 1936 (Oliver Green, Underground Art. London Transport Posters 1908 to the Present, p. 89).

On the other hand there were the new roundels designed by Hans Schleger for overground bus stops, coach stops, and tram stops. His design (below, left) was in use for over five decades, and during that times it was tweaked a number of times in terms of proportions and positioning/tracking of the text (below, right), be it on purpose or by accident.

Image credits, left: Pat Schleger, Zero. Hans Schleger. A Life of Design, p. 98. Right: Some superimposed images, one from a bus stop sign at London Transport Museum Acton Depot, one from David Lawrence, A Logo for London, 2nd ed., p. 65, and one from the LTM website (LTM 1995/2254).

In my opinion all these simplified roundels are heavily influenced by modernism, Bauhaus and the like. Their design is minimalist, clean and sober – and very similar to designs that only came several decades later (think of the DRU roundel, 1971, and of the current TfL roundel). It is remarkable and hard to understand that Schleger’s roundel was used for several decades alongside other roundel designs that were far more decorated and can even appear a bit cluttered in comparison.