Frank Pick

Frank Pick

Frank Pick (23 November 1878 - 7 November 1941) was Managing Director of the Underground Group from 1928 and Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board from its creation in 1933 until 1940.

Pick was born in Spalding, Lincolnshire, the son of a draper. After attending St Peter's School in York he studied Law at the University of London before starting work at the North Eastern Railway (NER) in 1902.

At the NER he worked as assistant to its General Manager Sir George Gibb. In 1906 Gibb was appointed as Chairman of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London Limited (UERL) and took Pick with him. By 1908 Pick had become Publicity Officer responsible for marketing the "Underground Group" (as the UERL was commonly branded) and it was at this time that Pick began the development of the strong visual style for which the London Underground would later become famous. One of his responsibilities was for increasing passenger levels and saw that the best way to achieve this was to encourage the use of the company's trains outside of the peak hours. He began to commission posters promoting the recreational use of the Underground to reach the countryside around London or attractions within the city.

In 1912 he became Commercial Manager working under General Manager Albert Henry Stanley. Pick introduced a standardised advertising policy across all stations with a common advertising style to strengthened the identity of the brand in the public's mind. To this end, in 1915 he commissioned calligrapher and typographer Edward Johnston to design a clear new typeface for use on all Underground Group buildings, rolling stock and publications. Johnston's typeface, (now known as "Johnston Sans") was first used in 1916 and was so successful that, with minor modifications in recent years, it is still in use today. Johnston was again commissioned in 1918 to redesign the Underground roundel or "bullseye" device and the form used today is based on that developed by Johnston in 1919.

Pick's interest in design had expanded from advertising to cover all aspects of the company's activities. In 1921, Pick became Assistant Joint Manager of the Underground Group. With plans for the extension of the Group's City & South London Railway from Clapham Common to Morden developing, he employed Charles Holden to design the station buildings in a modern style.

Pick and Holden had similar backgrounds (Holden's father had also been a Draper) and ideas on design and, over the next twenty or so years, they worked closely together on projects across the Underground network including the construction of the new headquarters of the Underground Group at 55 Broadway, St. James's (1927 - 1929) and the Piccadilly and Central Line extensions in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1928 Pick became Managing Director of the Underground Group and when, in 1933 the Group was nationalised to form part of the
London Passenger Transport Board, he became Managing Director of the whole organisation with responsibility for underground railway, bus and tram transport across London.

Separate to his work at London Underground, Pick was President of the Design and Industries Association in 1928 and Chairman of the Council for Art and Industry in 1934. Like Holden, Pick rejected the offer of public honours, declining a Knighthood and a Peerage.

In 1940, Pick left London Transport on a point of principle. After a brief and unhappy spell at the Ministry of Information, where he was director general, he retired to his home. Pick had not been well for some years. He died in 1941.

Pick is commemorated with a blue plaque at his home , 15 Wildwood Road near Golders Green; it reads:

:Frank Pick (1878-1941), Pioneer of good design for London Transport, lived here.


* "Paths to peace: Two essays in aims and methods", 1941

External links

* [ London Transport Museum Photographic Archive]
** ltmcollection|o2/i00004o2.jpg|Frank Pick (left) with Lord Ashfield in 1923
** ltmcollection|44/i0000244.jpg|Frank Pick in 1939


* [ Design Museum - Frank Pick]
* [ London's Transport Museum - The Golden Age of Transport in London - Frank Pick]

Further reading

* Saler, Michael. The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: 'Medieval Modernism' and the London Underground, Oxford University Press 1999 (Biography)

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