Exercise 1: Marianne Straub’s moquette textile considered from a Visual Communications point of view

Exercise 1 invites to think back at work done on Visual Communications in Part Three and consider what communicative function Straub’s textile is serving in this context.

I think that, beyond providing something durable to sit on while using public transportation, in this specific case the upholstery primarily served the purpose of creating a strong visual brand identity for the London transportation system, and consequently to generate in passengers an emotional response and association with it.

This was not always so: from a very interesting document of 2011 that I found online, ‘Reports of Society Meetings: Seat Moquette – Past, Present and Future’ by Harriet Wallace Jones and Emma Sewell of Wallace Sewell with Mike Ashworth of London Underground (At: http://www.lurs.org.uk/articles11_htm_files/03%20oct%2011%20REPORTS%20OF%20SOCIETY%20METTINGS.pdf, accessed 10/08/2017) I learnt that originally on public transport seats were often made of wood or of woven cane, being these materials hard-wearing, light and hygienic. It was mainly because of increased competition from other bus and tram services with more comfortable seats that a textile upholstery was considered.

But for a long time the seats were covered with all sorts of patterned fabrics, with no preoccupation for consistency. It was only in the 60s that the concept of a uniform design fir the whole fleet emerged and contributed to establish a brand identity for London Transport, and I think that the use of the same visually appealing moquette with pleasant tactile qualities brought with it also other messages to passengers: London Transport is dependable and trustworthy in its service and takes care that passengers stay comfortable and warm and have an enjoyable travelling experience. The choice of a moquette textile seems also particularly suited to a relatively cold city such as London, whereas it would be odd in a hot town like Rome where I live.

The analogous blue/green colour scheme is lively and fresh, dynamic and energetic but not disquietingly or excessively so: being next to each other on the colour wheel, blue and green are harmonious and pleasing to the eye and can evoke serene natural images of water and foliage. The abstract geometric pattern has a certain Bauhaus flair – understandably so since Marianne Straub had studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich where she had as tutor Heinz Otto Hürlimann (At: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Straub, accessed 11/08/2017) – and is neat and crisp without being busy or distracting. With its straight lines the pattern may perhaps be connected also with the grid-like plan of transportation but maybe this is unintentional or far-fetched.

So I think that all in all Straub’s moquette textile may bring with it connotations such as an emotional identification with the brand, feelings of warmness, cosiness, care and comfort, and a serene general pleasingness to the eye and the touch.


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