The London Overground spans 113 stations and reaches for over 160km. It encircles London in a wonky spiral, connecting places that hundreds of thousands of people call home. Customers might stumble on clutching a thermos of coffee in Watford or West Croydon, ride over to Dalston for a night out, or spend a Saturday visiting friends in Shepherd’s Bush. And don’t let its uniform orange fool you: this is far from a single route, it’s a complex system of six different lines.

And there lies the challenge. Because when something goes wrong on the London Overground, it’s not immediately obvious whether you’ll have trouble getting to Brockley in South London, Barking in the east or Bushey in the northwest. If you’re unfamiliar with the London Overground, you might have found yourself wandering down the carriage, trying to decipher the similar-seeming maps to find one for the train you’re on.

That’s why in his 2021 manifesto, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pledged to give the London Overground lines separate names. He also committed to celebrating London’s diversity, establishing the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm (CDPR) to shine a spotlight on London’s untold stories, narratives and histories.

So it all begins with you, train customers. We are working with Transport for London, the Mayor and the commission to name these lines. But we will start by travelling all 167km of the London Overground, asking people on the train to tell us about the journey you are making, what makes the network special to you and how you would describe the line. We will also run creative workshops with groups who are often underrepresented in public space — including young people, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) community, and disability organisations — to listen to as many different perspectives as possible.

At DNCO, we’re experts in uncovering the stories behind places. But being part of the London Overground’s future is a one-time opportunity and we take it very seriously. So we’re also bringing a couple of external specialists on board. Our research director Tom Marriage will use his 20 or so years of experience to reveal the relationship between places and people, and guide the research process. The names will also be under the rigorous eye of J C Kristensen. A design historian and semiotician, Kristensen is an expert in investigating and interrogating the origins, associations and meanings behind names.

Our research will uncover hidden histories, narratives and insights that will guide and inspire the creative team. Follow the journey here.

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