Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The Font Now Arriving at Platform 1

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

The Font Now Arriving at Platform 1

Article excerpt

Stories in the glossier design books usually have neat endings: the project is completed successfully, beautifully photographed and the designers and clients live happily ever after. Only we know real life isn't like that ... it's messier, more complex and the loose ends don't always get tidied up.

Paul Shaw's Helvetica and the New York Subway System (Blue Pencil Editions, helveticasubway.com) is an attempt to find out how things really happened on one project and along the way it becomes both a design detective story and an exercise in meticulous typographic archeology.

In 1967, Mayor Lindsay's Task Force on Urban Design declared the New York subway was 'the most squalid public environment of the United States.' One of the many problems was the chaotic signage information provision for its users. Shaw tells how in 1966 the new, Modernist design group Unimark International and two of its founders, Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda, were hired by the New York City Transit Authority to make some proposals for a new approach. So began the twenty-year saga of designing and implementing a signage system for the network. …

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