Frank Pick Hon. RIBA was a British transport administrator. He was chief executive officer and vice-chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board from its creation in 1933 until 1940. His impact on the growth of London between the world wars led to his being likened to Baron Haussmann and Robert Moses.
About Frank Pick in brief
Frank Pick Hon. RIBA was a British transport administrator. After qualifying as a solicitor in 1902, he worked at the North Eastern Railway, before moving to the Underground Electric Railways Company of London in 1906. He was chief executive officer and vice-chairman of the London Passenger Transport Board from its creation in 1933 until 1940. Under his direction, the UERL’s Underground network and associated bus services expanded considerably. His impact on the growth of London between the world wars led to his being likened to Baron Haussmann and Robert Moses. Pick had a strong interest in design and its use in public life. He commissioned commercial art, graphic design and modern architecture, establishing a highly recognisable brand, including the first versions of the roundel and typeface still used today. He prepared the transport plan for the mass evacuation of civilians from London at the outbreak of war and produced reports on the wartime use of canals and ports. Pick’s philosophy on design was that ‘the test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better; it will only make it more expensive, more foolish’ He was also the first chairman of the Council for Art and Industry and regularly wrote and lectured on design and urban planning subjects. Pick was the first child of five born to draper Francis Pick and his wife Fanny Pick. His paternal grandfather, Charles Pick, was a farmer in Spalding who died in his forties, leaving eight children.
He attended St Peter’s School in York on a scholarship, and was articled to a York solicitor, George Crombie, in March 1897. As a child, Pick was bookish, preferring to read and build collections of moths and butterflies and objects found on the beach rather than take part in sports. In 1904, Pick married Mabel Mary Caroline Woodhouse, the couple had no children. In 1908, Pick became publicity officer responsible for marketing and it was at this time that, working with the company’s general manager Albert Stanley, he began developing the strong corporate identity and visual style for which the London Underground later became famous. In 1910, he became traffic development officer in commercial development. In 1912 and 1913, he increased its control over transport services in London by purchasing two tube railways, the City & South London Railway and Central London Railway. One of Pick’s responsibilities was to increase passenger numbers, and he believed that the best way to do so was by encouraging increased patronage outside peak hours. At the same time he commissioned posters which promoted the Underground’s trains and London General Omnibus Company’s services outside of peak hours, working in many different styles, including different styles of art. He later served as President of the Design and Industries Association. He was a founding member and later served as Chairman of the British Design Association. He died in London in 1966, at the age of 80. He is buried in St Pancras, London.