38 – Frank Pick with a computer

We cannot talk about the wonder that was the London Underground in the inter-war period, without mentioning Frank Pick.  He was the leader responsible for creating an identity through the sponsorship of design and the imposition of consistent standards. As a result the Tube gained a worldwide reputation and provided a model that would be followed by many other bodies.

A modern equivalent is Apple, where huge success is based on a coherent design philosophy and Steve Jobs is famous for having been  obsessed  details and insisting that everything  conformed with his ideas of rightness. Interestingly typography was important to both of them. Pick’s idea of improving singe and creating an identity through a font was innovative, similarly Jobs had a keen interest in calligraphy (it is what he did when he dropped out of college) and he introduced a choice of fonts for rendering text on an Apple (a revelation in comparison to the existing machine types). But that is only  one manifestation of an insistence on quality in all aspects.  (Apparently both men were also very difficult to work with. I don’t know whether that goes hand in hand with such obsessions – it well might).

But in one respect there was a huge difference, which shows an interesting difference between the eras. Steve Jobs has been idolised and been given an almost mythical status; Frank Pick headed a public body and had no great public persona. He was a functionary, a member of the great and the good perhaps, but outside of his world he was anonymous. In someways I like that. I like the idea of celebrating peoples achievements but am not sure it is healthy to elevate people too high and venerate them.

Anyway that is at a bit of a tangent. My moment of pleasure today was  the passing thought that Pick and Jobs were alike (as well as both having one syllable  names with a meaning in plain english).

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