Helvetica and the New York City Subway System – The True (Maybe) Story (Anglais) Relié – 18 février 2011
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I always thought it odd that designers didn't take standard Medium plus Bold or other sans (the Franklins, News Gothic, Venus et cetera) and just use them without modification. Letter and line spacing seems as important as the typeface in signage. The examples shown in the book have all been made into new faces. Maybe designers feel they must leave their individuality on these projects.
It wasn't until the mid-sixties that the transit people decided to get to grips with a unified type, graphics and signage system. Designer Massimo Vignelli and Unimark suggested ideas but amazingly, because of money problems, not too much came of the recommendations. It seems clear though that whatever outsiders suggested would have problems because of the way signs were produced. The Transit Authority had their own internal unit for making signs and the type stencils for some of these were actually cut by hand. Design manuals specifying all sorts of character and spacing refinements evaporated in reality.
Shaw devotes a chapter to the development of Helvetica and its ascendancy over all others (look at those horizontal terminals). The last three chapters reveal how it took nineteen years for the type get established as the sign typeface. Maybe all the work over the years to get it right sort of fades a bit with the expanding use of electronic information signs that use several types of letter generation.
The book was designed by the author (and Abby Goldstein) and it follows a rather unusual format. The text is in paragraph blocks, two to a page, with each ending with a footnote number. These are on the same page and set in five columns. The seventy-six footnotes are really the strength of the book because they carry a huge amount of detailed information. Throw into the mix 286 images and their captions and you get quite busy looking pages. Fortunately it all hangs together beautifully (though I would have put .25 fine rules between the footnote columns) and looks a handsome looking book. The back pages have a timeline, up to 2010, of the subway, a bibliography but oddly no index, I would have thought this was essential in this type of title.
I think Shaw is to be congratulated in writing a fascinating book about a specialist subject and making it come alive though it will probably be a bit too technical for a wider readership. Incidentally he has used a bit of personal whimsy on the book's front and back cover with the word Subway, (see one of my uploads).
* Helvetica by a knock out.
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com
In a similar vein to those who study the rolling stock or expansion of the route of the NYC Subway over the years, a variety of people may find this book intriguing. People with interests in architecture, graphic design, marketing, history and/or the subway system itself should enjoy this book. It may get tedious partway through, since it tends to get bogged down in minute details. So, trust your instincts about your level of interest. As much as I love the NYC Subways, I would not buy an in-depth study of train engines and propulsion systems, since that's just not my thing. However, if signage as artwork IS your thing, you ought to get this book!
Paul Shaw has forsaken the "healing tool" in favor of a look at the design process, blemishes and all. He shows us battles lost as well as won. The New York Subway system did not begin life as a well orchestrated plan that was delivered as composed with a single downbeat. There were numerous conflagrations among the many involved factions from planners, designers, local governments, businesses, and unions. What we see today on a subway platform in NYC is a semi-pealed onion revealing layers of history.
Paul makes a fine story of the toils and shows images from all facets of the century-long project still in progress. He jokingly adds "maybe" after True Story in the subtitle but we all know such a story could not be invented. The book is a combination lesson in history, sociology, commerce, and 100 year turf-wars, the stuff real design projects are made of.
My only small quibble with the book is that the layout can be a bit confusing to follow sometimes. This may be because there are so many intriguing illustrations and footnotes that you forget where you were reading. This is hardly a problem though, rereading is a pleasant task and you find things you never knew were there--kind of like repeated trips on the New York subway.
By all means, take it for a ride or two.