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29 JUNE 2011

A going concern. Toilet signage as an international cultural artefact

"Toilet signage itself has a relatively young history, following that of the public loo, which only became common in the late nineteenth century, stimulated by increasing mobility and the separation of work from home. Public conveniences first appeared in British railway stations and department stores, but the practice was then exported through the British empire.

These early signs were text–based but increasingly mobile populations in the twentieth century encouraged the development of pictorial systems that did not require shared language. Visual languages such as the US Department of Transportation symbol system designed in 1974 – the first comprehensive pictogram system – and systems developed for the Olympics aimed for universality but very much reflected their Germanic roots in abstract systems such as those of Otto Neurath. Once embraced by international communications and business, they became part of the International Style."

(Lynne Ciochetto, 13 August 2009)

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TAGS

1974 • abstract systems • British Empire • British railway stations • cultural artefactdepartment storesGermanic rootsglobalisationgraphic representation • increasing mobility • India • international business • international communicationsInternational StyleInternational Typographic Style • late nineteenth century • Lynne Ciochetto • mobile populations • modernismOlympicsOtto Neurathpictogrampictogram systempictorial systemspostcolonial • public loo • rail • separation of work from home • shared languagesignssymbol systemtoilet signagetwentieth century • US Department of Transportation • visual communicationvisual language

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 APRIL 2011

The Design Research Unit: 1942 -72 [UK touring exhibition]

Friday 15 April – Friday 13 May 2011, Bonington Gallery, Bonington building, NTU City site, Nottingham, UK. This is a Cubitt Gallery touring exhibition.

"Formed in London in 1942, The Design Research Unit were responsible for some of the most important design produced in post–war Britain. They pioneered a model for multidisciplinary practice, being the first consultancy in the country to bring together expertise in architecture, graphics and industrial design. By the 1970s it was one of the largest and most established design offices in Europe.

This exhibition is the first of its kind, mapping the history of the group and the currency of their designs. It spans more than four decades of their work, focusing on some of their most significant projects and charting their ambition to bring elegant and functional design to all sections of society. It covers three phases of activity; the group's early origins and founder members, initial work in exhibition design and the Unit's role in devising some of the first and most comprehensive corporate design schemes commissioned for British industry.

The Design Research Unit: 1942 –72 will be open to the general public on 15 April 2011. Admission is free."

(Nottingham Trent University, UK)

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TAGS

19421970s2011architectureauthorshipBonington GalleryBritish designBritish industryBritish Rail • commercial design • consultancy • corporate design • corporate identitycreative practice • Cubitt Gallery • design formalismdesign historydesign researchDesign Research UnitDRUexhibitionexhibition designgraphicshistoryindustrial designinterdisciplinaryNottinghamNTUpioneeringpostwarrail • touring exhibition • UKvisual communication

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
14 JULY 2010

London Underground Victoria Line ceramic tiles

The Victoria Line that opened between 1968 and 1971 "provided the opportunity to produce a new and consistent look across the whole line, from the trains themselves to the stations and platforms. All aspects of design were overseen by Misha Black, the Design Consultant for London Transport (1964–1968), who previously had a similar role with British Rail. He employed the talents of the The Design Research Unit (DRU) – a collective of designers, artists and architects who designed all aspects of the VIctoria Line.

Each platform was designed with a very muted colour scheme, described by some of the press at the time as the 'late lavatorial style' (1, P58). The tiled designs in each seat recess provided much needed colour and decoration, and gave each stop its own visual identity. The results were a mixture of direct inspiration from the station name and references to historical details of the local area."

(Ian Moore, Design Assembly, 3 May 2010)

Fig.1 Stockwell by Abram Games – a semi–abstract swan, representing the nearby pub of the same name.

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TAGS

19681969197120th century • Abram Games • blocks of colourBritish Rail • Brixton • ceramic tileceramicscolourcolour schemecreative practicedecorationdesigndesign historyDesign Research UnitDRUgeometric designshistorical detailhistoryidentitylocalLondon TransportLondon Underground • Misha Black • motif • name • rail • station platform • Stockwell • train stationTube (transport)tube stationUKundergroundunderground line • VIctoria Line • visual communicationvisual depictionvisual designvisual identityvisual motif • Walthamstow Central • Warren Street

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
18 JANUARY 2009

King's Cross Voices Oral History Project

"Since 2004, the King's Cross Voices oral history project has been working with community members and local partners to record people's memories and unique life experiences of the King's Cross area.
...
In response to this extraordinary transformation of the area, the King's Cross Voices recordings are a vital historical record of the life and times of 'the Cross' as the physical reminders are forever changed, and as the composition of present communities are likely to be altered irrevocably. All the interviews reflect the enormous range of occupations, communities and characters that have made King's Cross such an intriguing and well–known, yet until now, undocumented part of central London.

The voices in the archive include teachers, shopkeepers, publicans, policemen, students, squatters, housewives, social workers, builders, actors, artists, campaigners, politicians, prostitutes, factory workers, cleaners, office workers and, vitally, a whole range of occupations within the railway industry which has been the epicentre of the area for the past 150 years or so."
(King's Cross Voices Oral History Project)

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TAGS

2004archivechangecommunitydocumentationHeritage Lottery Fundhistory • Kings Cross • Kings Cross Voices Oral History Project • Londonoral historyrailsocial changesocial reality • St. Pancras • transformationUK

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
01 JANUARY 2004

Bangkok: City Theme-park

The mono–rail track suspended above Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok allows travellers to view the city and street life in air–conditioned comfort. In this way the train appears to situate its passengers as spectators of a programmed urban non–place in much the same way as motorists are seen to be located within the space of the German Autobahns – as described by Marc Augé.

Augé, Marc. 1995 Non–Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London/New York, : Verso

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TAGS

Autobahn • BangkokcitiescityMarc Auge • mono-rail • monorail • non-placerailspectator • Sukhumvit Road • Supermodernity • theme parktransforming citiestravellerurban issues
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