The MTA New York Subway system has seen itself visually defined by its appropriately chosen usage and adoption of Helvetica as its font. Together with colorful bubbles, the visual pairing has become an icon in its own sense creating a familiarity for both locals and visitors alike. American design historian Paul Shaw penned a book that discusses the relationship of Helvetica and the New York subway system in a book titled Helvetica and the New York City Subway System. A recently posted article in the New York Times discusses Helvetica’s prominence in America during the 1960s, and its reasoning for adoption and desire to create a unified visual language for all travelers. Excerpts of the article can be seen below with a full look at the article seen here. A 2011 reprint of Paul Shaw’s book can be ordered via the book’s official website.

If ever a typeface was destined to symbolize a city, it is Helvetica and New York. Like other great New Yorkers, Helvetica came from somewhere else: the small Swiss town of Münchenstein, where it was developed in the mid-1950s by an obscure designer, Max Miedinger, for the Haas Type Foundry. True to émigré tradition, it dumped its original name — Neue Haas Grotesk when it arrived in the United States, in favor of one easier for Americans to pronounce.

The makeover worked. Helvetica flourished in America, becoming the typeface of choice for 1960s designers who wanted their work to look modern. Among them were Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli, who chose Helvetica as the typeface for New York’s subway signs when they redesigned them in the late 1960s. You can still see it on the latter-day version of their scheme: the thousands of signs on New York’s subway trains, stations and platforms.

It looks so comfortable there, not just because it is familiar, but because its character mirrors the city’s. Helvetica is simple in shape with no decorative details; like New Yorkers it is tough, blunt and pragmatic.

Hey presto! Except that the story isn’t quite so straightforward, as Mr. Shaw explains. Helvetica did not become ubiquitous in the New York subway system until the 1990s. Before that, efforts to introduce it were stymied by a soap-operatic cacophony of budget cuts, transit strikes, shoddy production and feeble management.

Helvetica wasn’t the only casualty. As Mr. Shaw explains in his foreword, the history of the subway system had been an unrelenting “struggle between centripetal and centrifugal forces,” starting in 1904 with its first line, the Interborough Rapid Transit’s route from City Hall to the Bronx. Another company was brought in to build the second line, and a third for the next one. By the time the three lines were merged in 1940, the system was hopelessly fragmented.

This chaos was reflected in subway signs, which included the IRT’s original mosaic station names and a motley assortment of enameled, glazed and hand-painted signs in different colors, formats and typefaces. The title of a 1957 proposal to redesign the system said it all: “Out of the Labyrinth: A plea and a plan for improved passenger information in the New York subways.”

The key to the success of any information design program is clarity, especially so for a subway system. Passengers, including out-of-towners, rely on its signs to guide them around a vast, often tangled network of underground tunnels, in which they have no other means of identifying where they are. They often need to read them quickly, distracted by crowds of passengers and noisy trains.

Via: Hypebeast

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10 Ways to Stay Inspired

February 9, 2010

Creative Blocks are quite common in the industry that we work in especially amongst very busy designers. I can say that it is truly one of the most depressing feelings you can experience as a designer. Each designer deals with a creative block in different ways, were sure that at least eight out of ten tips work! I know we all had this problem. heres a few lessons by:Jacques van Heerden

1. Doodle in Your Sketchbook

Graphic Designers always sketch up some ideas or concepts when starting on new projects. I know I do and I have been sketching and drawing since I was little and you might have too. Drawing takes your mind off things and gets your creative juices flowing, you will be surprised how quickly ideas come back to you just from doodling in a little book.

2. Visit Inspirational Galleries on the Web

Looking through designs that were created by other people is usually a great inspiration too. People around the world has gone about setting up Inspirational Galleries for us to visit and view masses of art on the same website, saving us time and effort. I recommend visiting Inspirational Design Galleries as a hobby day to day too, keeping you up to date with the design trends. Read more on 10 Niche Social Networks to Get Your Design Creativity On.

3. Take a Walk

Get out of your office, sitting all day is just going to make you look at the same things over and over again which definitely isn’t going to benefit you. Go outside and take the dog for a walk or just go for a walk by yourself. The fresh air and seamless nature around you might drive some new inspiration into you.
4. Search for New Fonts

You will be surprised by how much inspiration you can draw from a few simple curves. It freshens up your thinking patterns and gets your mind fixed on the things that you have to do. Fonts aren’t only used for saying something, they are also used to create something. Read more on 20 Websites for Font, Letter and Symbol enthusiasts.
5. Stop Doubting Yourself

Self doubt is a huge thing to overcome a a person, every person faces it sometime or another.When the time comes and you break free from the emotional stumble block a whole new world opens up. Like I said earlier don’t compare yourself to other people, take a stand and believe in yourself, you will accomplish a lot.
6. Get Away For a Day or Two

Sitting in front of the computer days at a time isn’t good at all. My advice is to go away with friends or family for a day or two, the change of scenery will change your thinking patterns and a few ideas might spring up in the process. Keeping a balanced lifestyle is very important in the work that we do, working out is essential.
7. Take your work to the nearest Coffee Shop

Working amongst a busy environment can be very beneficial, especially if you have to come up with new concepts and ideas. The reason is that nothing stays the same, it keeps constantly changing and therefore your thinking changes. You won’t understand the difference until you have experienced it yourself. Try it.
8. Go out with some friends

A night on the town with some friends can bring across some inspiration as well. Having fun and taking your mind off work lets you relax and have fun and not think about your clients.

9. Listen to some Music

Try changing your usual music taste to something different that you don’t always listen to. It broadens your spectrum of thinking and moving by inputting some new sounds and words. A lot of inspiration can be drawn from a simple song. Read more on 20 Fantastic Ways to Find New Music that You Like
10. Follow Some Tutorials

You might think that you don’t want to follow tutorials because you want to come up with your own work, but learning new techniques is the only way to improve your skills and creativity. Following tutorials is a very good base to start off with, because you can add your personal touch to the image you are working on.

TypeFace! Movie Trailer

February 3, 2010

Taking us back too the roots of the printing industry! Produced by the same team who brought us Hoop Dreams, Typeface explores the past and present of Wisconsin’s Hamilton Type Foundry, which in its 1900s heyday was one of the largest manufacturers of wood type. Now it’s a museum — but a living one, where design enthusiasts can actually use their more than 1.5 million pieces of wood type to set and print with.


Have a look at Mr. Eric Haze’s installation for Stussy Tokyo. This project is in support of the Haze x Stussy S/S 2010 capsule collection. Haze is a world renowned artist in street culture it fits for him to team up with another culture giant in Stussy.

Typography SERVED!

January 20, 2010

If you haven’t heard of www.typographyserved.com yet, do yourself a favor and get over there. Some of these people are so talented it’s discouraging, so if you’re a fledgling artist be prepared to cry! Seriously it’s a treat for the eyes… and if the site looks familiar that’s because it’s powered by behance, another popular creative network worth a look or 10.