Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw

Left Image:
Bleecker Street (6)

Right Image:
14th Street (F/V)

 

This limited edition book is an expanded, annotated and profusely illustrated version of the acclaimed essay originally written for AIGA Voice. It takes into account new information and is supplemented by comprehensive notes, a bibliography and a chronology of the New York City subway system.

There is a common belief, reinforced by Gary Hustwit's documentary film Helvetica, that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system. But it is not true - or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when they created the signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? what was chosen in its place? why is Helvetica now used? when did the changeover occur? Paul Shaw answers these questions and then goes beyond them to look at how the subway's signage system has evolved over the past forty years. The resulting story is more than a tale of a typeface. It is a look at the forces that have molded a signage system.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System has been awarded a Certificate of Typographic Excellence by the Type Directors Club. It was included in their 56th Awards Exhibition and is in their annual Typography 31.

The book has been republished by The MIT Press and is now available at the very affordable price of $39.95. Please buy the book directly from them or from independent bookstores. Support your local economy.

Read More  |  Sample Spreads  |  Purchase the Book

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw

MIT Press Edition Bookjacket.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw

Blue Pencil Edition Front Cover: "Subway" stamped in white foil on black linen in Akzidenz Grotesk BQ Medium.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story by Paul Shaw

Blue Pencil Edition Back Cover: "Subway" stamped in white foil on black linen in Neue Helvetica 65 Medium.