Berlin U-Bahn on track for Aberdeenshire illustrator’s work

Williams' designs on the building fence of Projekt U5 - a line extension which closes the gap in the U-Bahn between east and west Berlin. Picture: Contributed

Williams' designs on the building fence of Projekt U5 - a line extension which closes the gap in the U-Bahn between east and west Berlin. Picture: Contributed

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All artists want their work to be appreciated by as many people as possible.

So the chance to create a public artwork is one few would turn down - especially when the canvass is a mass transport system in one of the major capitals of the world.

The fencing has been described as 'the largest display in Berlin'. Picture: Contributed

The fencing has been described as 'the largest display in Berlin'. Picture: Contributed

Jonathan Williams, a graphic designer and illustrator from Fyvie in Aberdeenshire, is now getting used to seeing his creations regularly shared on social media after he won a commission from Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe GmbH (BVG), which manages the German capital’s transport system.

He was tasked with creating a series of characters travelling on the city’s underground U-Bahn system, with the finished results now lining six kilometres of construction fencing of a massive line expansion project that will link the east and west of the cities.

BVG has described the fence as “the largest display in Berlin” - and it was largely designed from a farmhouse in the north-east of Scotland.

“The fence gives information on the project in friendly Berlin dialogues,” Williams said. “How it was built, when it will be completed, and above all, how it connects everyone together.”

Williams took part inspiration from a BVG promotional video which shows a series of “bizarre happenings” on the U-Bahn, which are intended to emphasise that the trains are safe spaces for people from all walks of life.

“There’s people dressed in shark outfits and bondage gear,” he added. “It’s basically saying you can be as weird as you like - part of Berlin’s liberal outlook.

“That campaign was up and running when they asked me to illustrate some characters. I threw in some new ones for good measure.

“I’m building on what was a successful idea.”

Williams - despite having never visited Berlin himself - had a fair idea of what would work, having done many previous projects with other German clients.

“I’ve found over the years that their sensibilities are quite different to ours,” he added.

“They are generally more liberal, especially in Berlin. I quite liked that they asked me to illustrate a Spanish lady kissing a bear - its bizarre, but great. You just wouldn’t see that in the UK.

“I didn’t realise when I started just how much coverage it would have. It’s six kilometres long and right through the centre of Berlin. It’s not far from the Brandenburg Gate and other landmarks. You really can’t miss it. I’m seeing quite a lot of photos of it popping it up on Facebook and Instagram. It’s really become part of the landscape.”

Miller, 48, previously worked in Oxford and Edinburgh before settling in Fyvie 15 years ago.

Despite his rural location, his work is global.

“What I do is quite niche and international commissions are necessary to sustain the continuity of work needed to make a living,” he added.

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