Archive for the ‘Typography’ Category

Mon 14 Jun 2010 10:09 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

Spotted in the wild: The new subway map!

These are interesting times for our transit system.

Because of budget cuts, two lines are going away later this month. (I hope to attend one of the transit funerals for the V or W train! Anybody with me?)

A currently unused stretch of track—the Chrystie Street Connection—will be reopened to make way for the rerouted M.

All kinds of bus routes are being changed.

And in a strange move, this week the MTA accidentally posted a monument to Internet woe when it labeled the 14th Street/6th Avenue station with FML (“fuck my life”) signs.


The new routes take effect June 27, but new subway maps are already up in some stations, including Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

What’s new about the map? The most obvious change is that the color of the land has been adjusted from beige to an earthy khaki color. The designers have tried to make the map simpler, eliminating some confusing and seldom-used information about bus connections and which lines operate at which hours.

Here’s the new map:


Mon 11 Jan 2010 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Transit, Typography

Better fonts for a better New York

Sometimes I write posts for this blog, read them over, and then reject them because I think they’re too off-beat or boring. (That post about The Killers and Owl City almost didn’t make the cut.) Recently I wrote a draft of an essay about the signage in the new Flatbush Avenue Long Island Railroad terminal. After I wrote it, I decided it belonged in the round file. Deleted!

Then I got an e-mail from a reader named Amanda pointing out an error in one of my recent posts about subway signage. Based on a book I read, I have been calling the New York City Subway font Akzidenz-Grotesk. In fact, Akzidenz-Grotesk has been all-but-phased out in favor of a custom version of Helvetica. Some of the “buttons” (those colorful circles that represent the subway lines) are still set in Akzidenz-Grotesk, but most of the signage has been upgraded. Amanda even attached a graphic showing the difference between the two fonts…

Helvetica is on the top line and on the left button; Akzidenz-Grotesk on the bottom line and the right button. Note the differences in the cuts on the C and the e. Neat.

Anyway, this feedback convinced me that I’m not the only one who cares about subway signs. And so I dug up the blog post I had deleted earlier. Here it is:


Mon 19 Oct 2009 11:36 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

More rogue subway signs

After my post earlier today about non-standard subway signs, my friend Jess left me a comment on Facebook: “There are some temp signs at the Columbus Circle stop that are in Chicago font rather than Helvetica. They drive me nuts every time I see them.”

As it happens, I had to catch the subway at Columbus Circle tonight. The first sign I noticed was another one of those weird black-on-white signs, presumably indicating a semi-permanent change due to station construction.


Mon 19 Oct 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Typography

Subway sign mystery solved?

Imagine putting a dollar into vending machine, hitting the button for Coca-Cola, and seeing the machine dispense a green can. You’d know something was wrong. That’s how I felt when I saw the new signage at the DeKalb Avenue subway stop in Brooklyn.


I know, I’m odd about these things. But subway signs are white on black, not black on white! Why is the MTA futzing with its iconic signage?

I have a theory. I noticed a similar switch-a-roo last year in the Chambers Street station. Those oddball signs at Chambers are gone now. I think they were installed during a temporary change to the station layout, when a stairway was closed for repair work.

Likewise, these signs at DeKalb signal that the trains are temporarily skipping some stations, which are closed for repair work that will last a while. Maybe when there’s a change that’s permanent enough to require a new metal sign, but not so permanent it’s going to last forever, the MTA installs white signs instead of black ones. It’s a signal to the passenger to take special notice of this sign.

I might be wrong. On the F line, the new signs indicating the multi-year—but temporary—extension of the G train don’t look like this. They’re the standard white-on-black metal signs.

Tue 24 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Typography

Bad logo alert

Would you rent a home from a company who’s logo appears to be a home on fire?

Tue 24 Feb 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Failure, Typography

An appreication: Tropicana packaging, 2009-09

Item: The new Tropicana juice carton, designed by Arnell Group and introduced last month, is so loathed by customers that PepsiCo is switching back to the old design.

Let us raise a glass of juice and toast Tropicana for messing with the juice carton! The rejected design (which, by the way, took 30 people five months to develop) was just right for these times. It had simple graphics, bold san-serif type and a functional color scheme. The only illustration was a picture of the product in its purest form: juice in a glass. The horizontal bar on the top of each carton made it easy to spot the kind of juice you wanted in the supermarket. And best of all, the Tropicana carton included exactly one whimsical indulgence: A plastic cap shaped like an orange – easy to grip and twist, a surprise-and-delight feature.

Unfortunately, customers were unprepared for this bold leap toward modernism. And Tropicana caved once initial feedback proved negative. (Wasn’t at least one of those 30 design people in charge of customer research?) I enjoy orange juice at breakfast, and this carton was a nice thing to look at for a few seconds every morning. It will be missed. [Sound of “Danny Boy” being played on bagpipes.]

Wed 18 Feb 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Typography

Attack of the terrible logos

Are we in the dark ages of logo design? Just look at the above examples – beginning with the Payless logo introduced in 2006 and continuing through the Kraft Foods logo introduced yesterday. I mean, really? Is everybody using the same WordArt template?

Even the new Pepsi logo has been derided variously as a rip-off of the Obama campaign logo to an exercise in delusional self-importance.

Wed 12 Nov 2008 6:59 pm   //   Posted in: Media, New York is different, Typography

Somebody gave me a fake Times this morning…

… knowing full well that some of the people they handed it to were journalists who would blog about it, as I did here on my work blog. I give this stunt an ‘A’ for effort.

Thu 28 Aug 2008 7:30 am   //   Posted in: TV, Typography

Mad Men: Back to the Futura

I enjoy the show “Mad Men” (though I’ve missed the last few episodes, so no spoilers please). One thing that’s intriguing about the show is its attention to detail, with sets meticulously reconstructed to resemble offices and homes in 1960s New York. Every hair is in place.

But Andrew Hearst on the Panopticist blog has noticed that the wheels fall off during the ending credits – which are set in Arial! He does a better job than I can explaining why this is a crime against art:

“This is obviously a small detail. But Mad Men is a show that matches small details as well as any series that’s ever been on the air. Why does such a pitch-perfect show end with such a jarring anachronism?”

Come to think of it, the ending credits of most good shows are usually boring and slap-dash. I wonder why?

Tue 29 Jul 2008 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Typography, Videos

Ransom always was a bad font

This video is kind of silly, but I feel compelled to link to it.