Pick, Frank

Date of Birth:
23 Nov 1878
Date of Death:
7 Nov 1941
Pick, Frank

Frank Pick, chief executive of London Transport (L.T), was a towering figure who had an unrivalled flair for design-management. Pick brought L.T. international acclaim for its public architecture and graphic art. His vision imbued the organisation with confidence and self-respect fitting for the transport system of a world city.

Frank Pick was born on 23 November 1878 in Lincolnshire, into a devout Quaker family: Francis Pick, a draper, and his wife Fanny. He was educated at St Peter's School, York. After leaving school he worked for a York solicitor, George Crombie, from 1897.

In 1901 Pick married Mabel Woodhouse, and the couple adopted a daughter.

In 1902 he gained a first class honours degree in Law from the University of London. However the same year he decided on a dramatic career change, joining the traffic statistics office of the North Eastern Railway Company under the general manager, Sir George Gibb. When Gibb moved to London in 1906 as chairman of the Underground Group, he took Pick, his ambitious young assistant, with him.

In 1907 Pick was put in charge of publicity by Albert Stanley (later Lord Ashfield) the general manager of the Underground Group. Pick effectively created this job for himself, since at that time separate publicity and design departments did not exist.

It was in this role that his talents became evident. He changed the look of the new Underground system. Pick swept away the clutter from stations where, until then, commercial advertising could be displayed anywhere. He designated far larger areas for the group's essential signage, including route maps and station names.

In 1908 Pick began commissioning striking posters in a variety of styles. He started with established artists, but soon became a leading patron of new talent. Posters promoted off-peak travel to a captive audience of commuters. They showed an image of London that many Londoners had never seen and let commuters know that a trip to the countryside, the theatre, or the Zoo during their leisure time was within their reach. Artists included Edward McKnight Kauffer, Man Ray, Graham Sutherland, Hans Schleger, Tom Eckersley, Lszl Moholy-Nagy, and Frank Brangwyn. It became a prestigious commission to work for the Underground Group, and by the 1920s posters designed by the best graphic artists in the country could be seen on the platforms of the Tube.

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