There is a widely held principle in the design of stations in London that a common theme and a clarity of purpose will provide comfort through continuity and will exemplify the brand of good public service. And there is much to be said for it. The common London Underground signage, from colour to typeface, is a much-loved classic, held up by owners and design scholars alike and appreciated by the many. British Rail had a similar standard that has largely sustained through the various manifestations of its ownership. A considerable number of consultant hours are spent each year redefining the subject, setting the rules for materials, colour and lighting in well-designed guidance documents replete with photographs of samples and architectural sketches.
Oddly however, for a system who’s primary role is to take you places, it is rare that the design of our stations reflects the place in which they sit. It is the character of the line that is important, rather than the character of the place you have come to see. And when you are in tunnel, with no connection to the outside, would that not be a distinct advantage in your wayfinding armoury?
And so it was refreshing and encouraging when Tokyo Metro set exactly that challenge – to integrate the character and qualities of the station setting with the continuity of the brand. And intriguingly they asked for the design to be described, not by the designer, but through the story of the people using the stations, through their ambition, their experience and their emotions.
So, in the deep level boxes of Aoyama-itchome, Gaiemme and Omotesando stations, we did this, and received the Excellent Design Award: