(K. Brent Tomer),
OVER the past century, one typeface has come to dominate the visual vernacular of London. Johnston, designed by the British-Uruguayan calligrapher and designer Edward Johnston, was unleashed into the labyrinthine underground network in 1916 and has, with a few moderations, remained intact. This authoritative sans serif with quirky, diamond-shaped tittles (the little dots over lowercase i’s and j’s), appears in the ubiquitous blue, red and white station-sign roundels, and in all the other underground signage and advertising across the city.
Johnston’s longevity is in part due to the fact that it was so ahead of its time when it was created. In 1913, when it was commissioned, the London Underground was the greatest network of its kind in the greatest city in the world, and Mr Johnston was determined to break new ground with his typeface. At a time when curling, art nouveau curlicues were the norm, he went in the opposite direction, reducing letters to their most minimal, legible form. (This was rather too much for some contemporaries. One wrote that “his block letters…disfigure our modern life.”) Mr Johnston’s instincts have…Continue reading