London’s underground transit system, known as “The London Underground” or “The Tube,” started running in 1863. Its iconic symbol, a patriotically colored bar-and-circle roundel, was first plastered on the city’s subterranean walls in 1908 and has gone through several iterations since. Until now, each new draft of the logo has been a variation on the same theme—all solidly red and blue, with only slight changes to the proportions and weight of the letters. Recently, however, British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong has reimagined the traditional transit symbol to reflect the rich and diverse African diaspora that makes up roughly 44% of London’s population.

Larry Achiampong [Photo: Benedict Johnson/© Larry Achiampong/Courtesy of the Artist & Copperfield, London]

This large-scale logo redesign is a public commission from Art on the Underground, a visual arts showcase funded by Transport for London, which “seeks to consider the possibilities of alternate histories,” according to a statement. “Pan African Flag for the Relic Travellers’ Alliance” exists as a part of the showcase’s 2019 program “On Edge,” which encourages artists to create works that explore themes of unity, utopia, and belonging, inspired by the United Kingdom’s likely departure from the European Union, thanks to Brexit (the deadline to withdraw, deal or not, has been extended to January 31, 2020). Achiampong was invited to create eight different versions of the classic roundel, to be placed in 70 different locations around London’s Westminster Underground station, which sits right across from the Houses of Parliament.

[Photo: GG Archard/© Larry Achiampong/courtesy of the Artist & Copperfield, London]

In an effort to celebrate not only his Ghanaian heritage but also other African and Caribbean countries, the artist has reimagined the British flag-colored bar-and-circle as a vivid mix of green, black, and red—the colors of the Pan African flag, representing the history of the land, the people, and bloodshed, respectively. A warm and buttery shade of yellow also finds its way into Achiampong’s designs; his use of this golden color is meant to suggest a bright and prosperous future for the diaspora and the UK, more broadly.

[Photo: GG Archard/© Larry Achiampong/courtesy of the Artist & Copperfield, London]

Each of Achiampong’s roundels also feature different patterns, the sum of which make up a complete Pan African flag (called the Relic Travellers’ Alliance flag) that the artist designed and installed in the courtyard of London’s Somerset House in 2017. The flag has 54 stars, which represent the 54 countries of Africa; these stars, along with other patterns including bold stripes and undulating lines, can be seen throughout all eight designs.

[Photo: GG Archard/© Larry Achiampong/courtesy of the Artist & Copperfield, London]

These London Underground roundels are a thematic continuation of Achiampong’s ongoing project, titled “Relic Traveller.” The multidisciplinary and multisite artwork explores Afrofuturism, a culturally specific aesthetic phenomenon that focuses on the intersection of blackness, technology, science, and the arts. Given the complex history of the African diaspora, Afrofuturism works to understand the past in order to imagine new possible futures for the continent and its dispersed people. Achiampong’s roundel redesigns for the Tube turn on the axis of his concept of “sanko-time,” which exists in the universe of African mythologies and their connection to science fiction.

“Sanko-time is based in the Ashanti word ‘sanfoka,’ which roughly translated, means to go back for what has been left behind. ‘Sankofa’ also alludes to using the past to prepare for the future; the wish of being able to go back to an immutable point to make sure that what has been lost is not lost any longer,” Achiampong says in a statement. In a country like the UK, which has a history as a violent, colonial power on the continent of Africa, Achiampong’s quest to look backward in order to move forward on a diverse and united front is particularly poignant. For centuries, the impact African people and their culture has had on European society has been erased from narratives about progress. Through Achiampong’s vision, the merged symbols (his flag and London’s transit logo) rewrite the story as a shared one.

The vivid, thought-provoking roundels will be on display for commuters passing through Westminster through February 2020.


How did we get here? A man who got stuck on a zipline, has lied to the general public on numerous occasions and has said more racist things than my great-uncle, is now the prime minister of the UK. Is it all down to a strong personal brand, perhaps? Agency Huge London certainly think so. Inspired (or rather, weirdly fascinated) by the mop-haired buffoon, Huge London decided to create a set of brand guidelines for Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (aka BoJo), taking a poke at this polarising politician.

“Boris is keen on aggressively promoting himself as a living brand to the country,” says Huge London’s creative director Hari Bajwa. “He’s spent his entire career creating this brand for himself, with the ultimate end goal of reaching number 10. So we thought we’d mock the moment by creating a set of tongue-in-cheek Human Brand Guidelines for him. No political stance, just complete truth based on his own words and actions.”

Referencing exact words that have come out of Boris’ mouth and teaming up with Getty Images for the perfect shots of the PM jogging, giving a double thumbs-up or inexplicable brandishing a string of sausages, the guidelines outline the new PM’s tone of voice, personal values, art direction and colour palette. Although the team say the project is apolitical, large swathes of the guidelines reference Johnson’s gaffes or more sinister machinations, including the infamous Brexit bus (which promised £350 million a week to the NHS) or offensive outpourings. A line in the tone of voice section reads, “To appeal to the right, target the marginalised. Past examples include calling women in burkas “letter boxes’.”

Bland, slippery with a tiny nod to the hip, the brand guidelines also include some messaging do’s and don’ts referencing the PM’s inflated ego. Bajwa adds: “While this document intends to provide complete clarity, consistency and direction to his approach as leader of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson will just make it up as he goes along.”