That's your favourite tube map cover from the 2004-2010 era. You can't vote for any of the early minimalist covers, like from 1924, 1938 or 1965, because they're too classic. And you can't vote for the squeezed paint cover from January 2004, because that wasn't specifically commissioned (and because it would easily win). But you can vote for any of the subsequent 12 cover designs, as sponsored by Art on the Underground. So, let me collect together those dozen designs to see what they look like...
I'm guessing that some of you don't have the complete set readily to hand (call yourself a tube obsessive?) but never fear, because all 12 covers can be viewed on the Art on the Underground website. Alas they've been presented within an impractical scroll'n'zoom gallery, which I fear the site developer is very proud of, but which is woefully counter-intuitive. If all else fails, just look at the 12-in-1 poster. Which is your favourite? There's a prize in it for you if you're lucky.
I think I can discount number 8 (bottom row, second from left) straight away. That's not art, that's an "appropriated symbol" which any six-year old with a decent graphics package could have drawn. Number 1 is just a target with more hoops, whose sole saving grace is that it "uses the same colours as the various underground lines". Not good enough. Likewise 4, 5 and 11 have to go, because they're very ordinary images rendered in tube line colours. I dislike 12, because it's been done before, and better. Each of the aforementioned six covers I could have designed, and so could you, which surely makes them undeserving of any reward.
Number 3 and number 7 are a bit better, because at least there's some creative nous behind the tangle of colours. Number 6 and number 10 are the closest to 'proper' figurative art, I think with the former having the edge. And I never liked number 9, even though the concept of a ripped magic carpet really ought to have appealed. Which leaves number 2 as my default favourite (that's Gary Hume's 'Untitled'), not least because he's had the audacity to slap the tube logo & footer right across the centre of his image.
Were I feeling keener, I could now send TfL my chosen vote via email. But I'm not sure I could stretch to 200 words for question 3 - "Which is your favourite Tube Map cover and why?" - not without resorting to writing pathetic artsbollocksdrivel. And as for question 4 - "What do you like about Art on the Underground?" - I fear I might get stuck after "Well it's a lot better than looking at adverts, innit". Then there's the prize on offer, which is a limited edition poster showing all 12 of the cover designs. I've already got one of each, thanks, and I'm not convinced they'd look lovely on my wall. You might think differently, in which case go for it (before the end of the month).
If TfL are looking for a thirteenth tubemapcover artist, I reckon I could throw something together that would pass muster. A kitten with Piccadilly-blue ears and a Bakerloo tail. A tube of toothpaste labelled "Squeeze". A list of rectangular boxes each of which reads "Planned closure". That sort of thing. But in the meantime I'm more than happy to celebrate the fact that London's tube map has art on the front of it at all. Because it's a lot better than looking at adverts, innit?