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

Left Image:
Chambers Street (J/M/Z)

Center Image:
23rd Street–Ely Avenue (E/V)

Right Image:
Pelham Bay Park (6)

Paul Shaw is uniquely qualified to have written this account
of the development since the mid-1960s of the New York City subway system signage.

He has a BA in American Studies from Reed College and both an MA and MPhil in American History from Columbia University. Trained as an historian, he has spent the past thirty years as a graphic designer specializing in letterforms. At the same time he has continued to research and write design history. He has received scholarships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the American Printing History Association, the Printing Historical Society, and the Book Club of California. In 2002 he was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.

He is a contributing editor for Print for whom he writes the Hot Type column, but he has also contributed to Eye, Baseline, Letter Arts Review, Design Issues, Typography Papers, Fine Print, Printing History, Journal of the Printing Historical Society, Bibliologia, Alphabet and Scripsit. He was the co-curator, with Peter Bain, of the groundbreaking exhibition Blackletter: Type and National Identity. Together they co-authored an accompanying monograph (1998) and catalogue (1999). In 2008 Shaw established Blue Pencil, a blog about design history and letterforms.

Since 1980 Shaw has taught calligraphy, lettering, typography, book design, the history of graphic design and the history of typography at a variety of New York-area universities and design schools, Currently, he is teaching calligraphy and typography at Parsons School of Design and the history of graphic design at the School of Visual Arts. He has led calligraphy workshops in the U.S. and Italy and has lectured widely on a variety of lettering and design history topics.

For nearly thirty years his firm Paul Shaw / Letter Design has executed calligraphy, hand lettering and typographic design for department stores, cosmetic companies, food conglomerates, universities, advertising agencies, design studios and others. His work has won awards from the Type Directors Club, AIGA, New York Art Directors Club, Print and Letter Arts Review. From 1992 to 2001 Shaw was a partner with Garrett Boge in the digital typefoundry LetterPerfect. He has designed or co-designed 18 typefaces.

Shaw is currently working on several projects, including a critical biography of W.A. Dwiggins, a multi-volume book on digital typefaces, and a book about lettering in New York City.