Metro Fonts, Subway Fonts

micro's picture

Hi all,

Some metro/subway systems are using their own exclusively designed typefaces for signage and paperwork. I have created a page listing all of them I know of:

Do you know of more corporate metro/subway fonts?

Thanks in advance

Stephen Coles's picture

Nice idea!

Berlin - This purchase link should probably go to unless your audience is predominantly German: FF Transit

London - Their current typeface is not really "Johnston" as digitized in the form of P22 London Underground. That is a font based on the older Johnston face. This should be noted if you link to purchasable fonts. And in that case you should also mention ITC Johnston.

Prague - Metron was recently digitized and expanded by Frantisek Storm, but it seems to be removed from MyFonts and no longer appears on Based on Syntax? Really?

Action Hank's picture

I believe the metro in Rotterdam (RET) uses a custom letter from Henk van Leyden. I remember reading about it in Haagse Letters.

This unfortunately is the best image I can find:

Alessandro Segalini's picture

I think NYC was defaulted to Helvetica Medium from the "Standard Medium" (Akzidenz Grotesk).
The one in Milan was done by Bob Noorda in 1964 but ashamedly I don't remember the face.

Stephen Coles's picture

New York City - Massimo Vignelli's original signage was Standard, an American version of Akzidenz-Grotesk (see also Basic Commercial for purchase link). They have since replaced a lot of signs with plain ol' Helvetica.

Grot Esqué's picture

Helsinki uses Helvetica, too. Although I’m almost sure I saw Arial somewhere there sometime.

micro's picture

Thanks for the replies! Just a short answer from me for now:

So NYC and Helsinki have standard fonts, not corporate fonts...

Some random photos from my archive from Milan and Rotterdam:

Looks like Milan=Helvetica and Rotterdam=Frutiger to my eyes. But many subways have a mixture of different typefaces as their signs are from different eras.

micro's picture

> Based on Syntax? Really?

The article says something like that...

...but at closer look... are probably right, it's based on something else.

I quickly googled for Metron Font and found this:

rubs's picture

The one in Milan was done by Bob Noorda in 1964 but ashamedly I don’t remember the face.

It was a custom Helvetica named "Noorda":
- shorter ascenders/descenders
- special weight (because of negative use: white on red)
- careful spacing and kerning

They are replacing it with a standard one.

Stephen Coles's picture

> I quickly googled for Metron Font and found this: is simply a link dump site that earns money referring traffic to MyFonts. They probably have an earlier version of MyFonts' data which is why it links to an empty page.

paul d hunt's picture

The Metron fonts are included on the Storm Open Library set, which is totally worth the money for what's included.

dezcom's picture

Washington DC uses Helvetica as well. :-(


Michio F's picture

Tokyo Metro uses Frutiger and Shin-go for new sign system after rebranding.
But they also uses Futura for station numbering.
It looks strange for me.
Sign company's website.

In old sign system they used the Akzidenz Grotesque and Gothic 4550 (still exisiting at some stations).
Sign company's website.

dan_reynolds's picture

Munich uses Vialog.

dan_reynolds's picture

An of course, there is alwys the London Underground.

P22 Underground
ITC Johnston

(double post; sorry Stewf!)

Stephen Coles's picture

Dan has switched my posts to "ignore"!

dan_reynolds's picture

Actually, I quickly scanned the page for Vialog, then added that. While I was typing that in, I thought about London, too, and didn't check. Sorry :(

Stephen Coles's picture

I josh. I know you have more important things to do than scour all my drivel.

dan_reynolds's picture

Not necessarially!

dezcom's picture

Scouring drivel? I didn't know you were a lawyer :-)


micro's picture

So a new candidate for my list would be Munich, but I'm nor sure if the Vialog font is a real metro font. This page says it has actually been designed for Munich airport: (in German)

There's even another, earlier, font for Munich: Traffic (1969 by Otl Aicher, based on Univers), which is also used by the subway but was actually designed for the Munich airport, according to this page: (in German), while Linotype says "for Munich’s public transport services".

A little disappointing because it's not clear whether these are metro fonts or not.

micro's picture

Is Shin-go a corporate font of Tokyo's metro?

I have updated the Metro Fonts page, btw:

dan_reynolds's picture

Vialog was designed by Werner Schneider and Helmet Ness (Fuenfwerken). They finished the font in order for it to be installed in Munich for the transit system there. They also did field tests in the city as well. The Munich airport is integrated into the city transit system, so I'm sure that you see it in the airport, too.

Vialog has been used completely all through the Munich transit network (subway, streetcar, train, commuter rail, print as well as signage, etc.) since late 2001. It replaced the fonts that were used before it.

Stephen Coles's picture

Here is another reference: FF Transit

Michio F's picture

Is Shin-go a corporate font of Tokyo’s metro?

I don't think Shin-go is a corporate font.
They use another typeface for their advertisement.
It's just for their sign system.
(Roman: Frutiger/ Japanese: Shin-go)

micro's picture

Thanks, I have added Vialog to my page.

jotae9's picture

Wow, too much time... maybe this thread is now closed, however Micro will be happy to add one more type to the list:

this time is for Bilbao's subway ID + Signage system. They use ROTIS, since the entire brand design was created by Otl Aicher himself after the visual-architectural design of Norman Foster. Here are some images:

yep, while I was quoting that I found this image:

DIN type? Sure, but I cant imageine why... Its not evenn mentioned in the CID Manual...

OK, thread reopened, I guess...


signatures ain't what they used to be anymore...

oldnick's picture

As far as the New York subway is concerned, I did a couple of fonts based on 1930s era mosaic tile signs: Downtown Tessie and Midtown Tessie, Tessie being a familiar form of tessera, to denote the mosaic bit.

Jongseong's picture

Non-Latin metro fonts, anyone? I'll give it a go with what I can write about the Hangul (Korean alphabet) faces in use in the Seoul metro, where I've spent an inordinate proportion of my life recently. I won't mention the subordinate Latin and Chinese character faces (the Latins are Frutiger-derived, I think, though I haven't examined them closely).

The metropolitan subway system in Seoul and surrounding areas is run by three different organizations: Korail, Seoul Metro, and Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT). Which explains why I can identify at least three different faces in wide use for the signage.

One is HY Ullungdo (HY 울릉도), developed by Hanyang Information & Communications. It feels like Korail has used this font for ages, though Hanyang was founded in 1990 so it can't have been in use before that.

(As an aside, trying to find information on hangul typefaces can be really frustrating, as often the only information one can find is who is selling them. Most Korean foundry websites provide no info on the designers, and some don't even give the year of design. One reason might be that hangul fonts are generally made by teams, not individual designers, and developed and updated through many years.)

I don't think HY Ullungdo is a custom metro face though; although it was probably designed for a signage purpose, I haven't come across any information that suggests that Korail commissioned it. Anyway, here's an example courtesy of Flickr:

On their newer lines, though, Korail does use a custom face called 'Korail (코레일)' developed by Asiafont (2003?). It's a nice, clean update to the Ullungdo genre, in my opinion. I found a Flickr photo example here:

The other widely seen face, and perhaps the one most familiar to Seoul commuters, is the one used by SMRT, but I have no idea what it's called, whether it is a custom face (I suspect it might be), and the general story behind it. It's a pity, because it's a beautiful face that has a warmer, friendlier feel than Ullungdo/Korail. It's the face I associate with Seoul subway, having grown up along SMRT-operated Line 4.

I'm quite positive that it's not available as a digital font; if it were, I would have been able to find at least some info on it. The Flickr photo example I found (one of several I could have used):

Can anyone help me with that last one?

hrant's picture

Brian, thanks!
And I'll try to remember to take pictures
of the Yerevan metro signage this summer.


Renaissance Man's picture

When you finish this, how about another list for highway signage?

Renaissance Man's picture

Article: Underground Typography

Is there any Metropolitaines signage left in Paris?

micro's picture

Thank you for your interesting post! I have added the Korail/코레일 font to my list.

@Renaissance Man
The Metropolitain fonts are found at many of the 88 metro entrances by Hector Guimard. For example:

micro's picture

Here's another tile sign worth making a font of:

I love these signs.

micro's picture

Now 16 cities with exclusive subway typefaces listed on
Paris has the most metro fonts (three, or even eight when the six varieties of Guimards art deco fonts are counted).

micro's picture

But Helvetica and Futura are not exclusively designed for the metro.

berga83's picture

Milano's metro used to have the Noorda (i think it is the actual font's name) which is designed to be an optically corrected negative version of Helvetica.
Some years ago Noorda's project was "raped" and Helvetica is in use now.

Unfortunately i couldn't find pictures of the original project, but there are plenty of the present signage!

Present project

neologix's picture

sorry to bump an old topic, but i was traveling on the new york city subway's N/R/W line and there's a particular mosaic set at 8th street/broadway denoting "NEW YORK UNIVERSITY." does anyone here know what font that is?

(i'll post a pic of it next time i'm at the station)


micro's picture

I don't know.
Please post your photo!
Is it like the mosaic fonts in other stations like in this photo page?

mr macgee's picture

Not to rehash an old topic but I have to ask as I have found discrepancies while searching. The font that is on the Paris metro "Metropolitain" signs by Hector Guimard (in photo's) are different than all the fonts I found to be listed as Metropolitain or pertaining to be based on this type. The biggest difference that sticks out is the "M" and I haven't found a true version of what I see on the signs in Paris. I know the signs were hand painted and can vary from sign to sign but after looking at quite a few different signs, the font is more similar from sign to sign compared to the downloadable fonts I have found.

Does anyone know a true usable version of this font found on the signs???

Thanks for the help.

The closest I've found is this one below but it's still a bit different

Any opinions?

An original sketch of metro sign:

Bloodtype's picture

I know Margaret Calvert did Tyne & Wear Metro

using appropriately enough, Calvert

EricFromPTown's picture

LA Metro uses Scala (Sans and Serif in print) along with DIN in signage. Los Angeles is like the new Milan!

-Eric MacLeod

micro's picture

@ mr macgee,
did you see the "Availability" links on the Metro Fonts page ?

I think those ones are closer than yours.

fingertipp's picture

The Taipei Metro uses:

LinGothic (Bold) for Chinese characters
HelveticaNeue (Medium) for English descriptions

Optima (Bold) for English station names
??? for the Chinese station names

They do also use a new logo now:

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