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? There is a history to the New York subway Helvetica font that is a interesting read by AIGA (The Professional Association for Design). 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.

Sign companies that use the subway font often

Many companies love to use our subway font and i can't blame them. It's the most well known font in America. Sign companies like FL Yacht Signs love to use our font for vinyl applications for personal boats, seems like our font has had a impact on people's lives.

We are more than happy to see what the Helvetica font has accomplished, who knew it would have gone this far? I hope to see more companies use our font to remind us all of the subway of New York City that we all love so much.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System has been awarded a Certificate of Typographic Excellence by the Type Directors Club. Marine industry specialists who create personalized vinyl boat names with the helvetica font are popular as well. It was included in their 56th Awards Exhibition and is in their annual Typography 3.

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.

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.