Mapmaker, painter, architect and designer – Brighton born Macdonald (Max) Gill is unfairly overshadowed by his infamous older brother Eric.
His mapwork is an iconic facet of early 20th Century Britain – patriotic documents from the last gasps of the Empire.
The visionary Frank Pick rescued the London Underground’s bad reputation by commissioning a typeface from Edward Johnston, station designs from Charles Holden and maps from Gill. By uniting design elements, Pick is credited with creating the first properly considered brand.
Gill re-imagined the hellish, steam filled tunnels as the ‘Wonderground’.
The Wonderground Map was not intended as a mere guide – it was an attractive distraction, a charming diversion from the dark and clamorous stations.
He presented a colourful, distorted, birds-eye view of London – crammed with local knowledge, historic information, jokes and personal references for his friends. It was such a success that there were reports of passengers missing their trains while engaged with the poster.
The popularity of the map contributed to feelings of public good-will towards the Underground and no doubt encouraged Frank Pick to maintain his progressive vision.
MacDonald Gill, Wonderground Map, 1914, courtesy Kemistry Gallery.
You can see a selection of MacDonald Gill’s work including the Wonderground Map at Kemistry Gallery until 27 April, 2013.