Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Transport for London’s classic font gets touched up for the 21st century.
Johnston, the 100-year old typeface synonymous with London’s transit system, is getting an upgrade.
Working with TfL, Monotype has released Johnston100, which modifies the old font in an effort to embrace its roots while functioning better for a modern transit system—in person and online.
Nadine Chahine of Monotype says Johnston needed to get back to its roots after years of small updates. As the project designers discovered while researching old London transportation signage and Edward Johnston’s drawings, the typeface lost some of its artistry over the years in the pursuit of functionality.
“[T]he latest versions had become a bit utilitarian and uniform,” Chahine said in a press release. “We wanted to bring back some of the original soul and tap into its idiosyncrasies.” This new version preserves the diamonds that dot Johnston’s i’s, semi-colons, question marks, and exclamation points, while rolling out two new weights (“hairline” and “thin”) and introducing “#” and “@” to respond to current trends.
Johnston (also known as “Johnston Sans”) was designed by Edward Johnston and released in 1916 after being commissioned by the Underground Electric Railways Company of London three years prior.
Riders along TfL’s trains and buses will start seeing Johnston100 next month on the agency’s maps and posters. It’ll eventually be rolled out at stations and platforms, including the entire Elizabeth line, which debuts in 2018.