Journal Article

Designing Time: The Design and Use of Nineteenth-Century Transport Timetables

Mike Esbester

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 22, issue 2, pages 91-113
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epp011
Designing Time: The Design and Use of Nineteenth-Century Transport Timetables

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This article examines how nineteenth-century transport timetables were designed, understood and used. It examines changes in timetable design during the nineteenth century, as railway timetables in particular had to convey more and more complex information. I argue that timetables reflected societal notions of time and helped to construct new understandings of space; yet, the times and spaces they propagated were only some of those circulating in the nineteenth century. I demonstrate that the timetable is an item through which it is possible to show how design—in this instance, of information—pervaded day-to-day life. I show that the design of timetables was fundamental to passengers’ ability (or inability) to find the information they required. The article therefore analyses a range of passenger responses to timetables, from comments about incomprehensibility to attempts to make timetables more relevant to their individual needs. This focus highlights the significance of design in its social context.

Keywords: consumers; everyday life; Great Britain; information design; railways; typography

Journal Article.  11924 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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