eBay 'authentic' subway sign

deltic's picture

Hi folks,

Thought this item might be of interest, since the typography on this 'authentic' NYC subway sign on eBay just looks wrong to me. It doesn't look like Helvetica; the spacing of the station name seems all wrong, and the odd positioning of the two small lines of text top right just seem clumsy. Tell me I'm wrong (and if I am wrong, don't go bidding against me!). Maybe some NYC subway signs do actually look this bad?

ebay subway sign

All best,

Matt aka Deltic

Florian Hardwig's picture

It doesn’t look like Helvetica

I thought most of it is Standard Medium aka Akzidenz Grotesk – but then, I’ve never been to NY.

In his article for Design Observer, Michael Bierut wrote:
Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli, developed a signage plan […] The typeface they recommended, the then-exotic, imported-from-Switzerland Helvetica Medium, was unavailable; they settled for something at hand in the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority train shop called Standard Medium.

deltic's picture

Ha! Intriguing. As a counter-example, Gary Hustwit, in his film Helvetica, briefly focuses on some NYC subway signage, attributing it to Vignelli (and, of course, implying that it's Helvetica). The plot thickens.

Bald Condensed's picture

What happened is that -- although originally all signage was done in Standard Medium which is a 'version' of Akzidenz-Grotesk -- subsequently they switched to Helvetica for the signs. So originally it was all Akzidenz-Grotesk, but now there's also a lot of Helvetica.

skyfein's picture

There's a nice explanation of how the New York City subway switched from Standard Medium (a version of Akzidenz Grotesk) to Helvetica in this New York Times "Cityroom" post.

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