I visited the Design Museum yesterday.
It is an interesting concept and I think as it settles down it will be worth visiting again.
One problem, I had with the Museum is getting to and from the site in Holland Park.
I went by the Underground to High Street Kensington station and took about ten minutes to walk along to the museum.
Coming back, I thought I’d go a different way after a walk.
But after emerging from the Museum, there were none of London’s excellent Legible London maps and signs to be seen.
Eventually, I walked through Holland Park, but it was the same story on the other side of the Park; no maps or signs to the Underground. There were several fingerposts in the Park, but none pointed to the Underground.
I suppose if you’re in a Chelsea Tractor, many of which were rushing around the area, you’re not interested in walking maps and are against your Council spending monry on them, as it might attract more visitors.
I’ve travelled all over the UK and a lot of Europe in recent years, and as I don’t drive, I have to use public transport.
What amazes me, is how poor mapping is in most cities and towns outside London.
There are exceptions like Munich, Glasgow and surprisingly, Ipswich, but most are pretty terrible. I’ve even had a letter in The Times complaining how bad the situation is in the UK.
So why is London so much more advanced with its maps, information and wayfinding?
In the 1920s and 1930s when the Underground was going through a major expansion, they probably had a problem with passengers not knowing where they could go!
In the 1950s, when I started to explore London on my own, my mother told me that if I got lost to find a Tube station, as they had a tube map to me back to Oakwood and a local street map to find what I was looking for. It is still the same today, except that the tube map is more comprehensive and the local maps are generally larger and much better.
Over the last few years London has applied the pre-war principles to the buses, with bus route or spider maps that could have been designed by Harry himself and local walking maps at every bus stop with a shelter.
And then there’s Legible London and all its liths and fingerposts. Wikipedia sums it up like this.
Unlike other wayfinding projects, Legible London leaps over bureaucratic boundaries in order to provide one consistent visual language and wayfinding system across the city. This city–wide approach was implemented to help visitors and local residents to easily gain local geographic knowledge regardless of the area they are in.
In contrast if you go to the Manchester area, Manchester uses one design and Salford another.
London is different to other UK cities and most in Europe, in that it is so much larger.
Consequently, most Londoners are regularly a visitor in their own city, when they find themselves in a part of the city they don’t know.
And of course this applies to those who manage the city, so they appreciate the problem.
If you take a city like Nottingham or Liverpool, most of the locals probably have the city in their head, so they can’t see the point of providing consistent visitor information all over the area. And if it were to be installed, many locals would see it as a waste of money.
So I believe that London’s size is the main reason its information system is so good.
But you must add the tradition started by Harry Beck! He may not be lauded as a great artist, but surely the London Tube Map is one of the greatest examples of public art of all time.
Like London, Brighton has gone Legible with lots of liths. Legible Brighton is described here. The page contains this statement.
Research has shown that people are more likely to return to a city if they have found it easy to navigate their way around.
So why are some places, slow to follow the lead of London and Glasgow? Here’s one of Brighton’s liths.
They are generally fairly simple, like most of London’s.
I grew up in my father’s print works, where words were the substance of the business. My generation also used to make up words much more than most seem to do today. For instance at school, we used to use the word plob for the little stopper in the end of a Bic pen.
The existing primary Legible London on-street signs or information boards are the ‘Monolith’ ‘Midilith’ and ‘Minilith’ which are free standing signs made of a mixture of vitreous enamel and vinyl printed glass materials within a stainless steel frame.
So I just shortened the whole of that to liths, as a convenient collective term for all of them. It also means, that I don’t have to state what type of lith it is.
I shall do what my father would have done over questions of words and contact the OED.
Is there any other way to describe this lith at the Emirates Air-Line?
London doesn’t appear to be too dictatorial about the liths, as some like this one seem to go their own way.
I encountered this sad and lonely lith surrounded by rubbish on the Regents Canal today.
I was walking the canal to try to see if I could find anything to raise at the De Beauvoir Ward Forum in the evening.
We need more of these at every entrance to the tow-path and I hope the rubbish is cleared up soon.
It’s the first lith, I’ve seen that has been vandalised.
I took this picture of the lith outside of Russell Square station.
I also talked to one of the staff inside, who liked the lith, but they said, they still got people asking them for directions.
Most stations now seem to have these Legible London liths outside. I now never carry a map, or use a map on my phone, as I walk around London, as the liths and the maps on bus stops and stations, will get me where I want to go.
Ealing has now got some of the Legible London liths.
It is good to see them spreading around the City.
One even helkped me find the exhibition.
I went to Stratford in East London, this morning to take some pictures.
These were two of the many Legible London liths, that make walking easy in the area.
I do wonder if other places are starting to use similar designs. In Ipswich yesterday, there were several as I walked to Portman Road. Ipswich calls it’s system Walk Ipswich and the web site is here.
Both systems in London and Ipswich were designed by Applied, so the similarity may not be a coincidence or plagiarism.
Yesterday, I had to deliver something to an address in Battersea. I found the address easily after taking a 35 bus to just round the corner. But then I tried to walk through the area to Clapham Junction station to get the Overground home. There were none of the usual bus stop maps and no Legible London signs.
The picture shows a typical bus stop on I think Lavender Hill. It may have had an information display, but that is not very useful, if you don’t know the routes of the buses.
I should say that I did see several night bus route maps, but I wanted to get home now, not wait until late at night.
In the end I took the first bus and got off, when it told me it was at Wandsworth Road station. I finally found a lone Legible London lith.
But it was unnecessary for me, as I had arrived at a station, where I could get a train home.
Perhaps people only go to South London to get lost.