New photos of the 2nd Avenue line suggest a pretty bold change in station tile style.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has treated New Yorkers to some pictures of construction progress for the long-awaited 2nd Avenue subway. But amid the pleasant exterior station renderings and gritty tunneling action shots we find this unexpected gem—showing a new style of wall tile lettering at the Lexington Ave/63rd Street Station (spotted by Ben Kabak at 2nd Ave. Sagas, who calls it "wacky"):

MTA

With a flat, smooth look and overlapping letters, this "Lex 63" treatment would be a pretty striking change for subway riders who are used to the system's traditional mosaic station tiles. Just for a frame of reference, here's how wall tile lettering appears at stations elsewhere around the city:

The All-Nite Images / Flickr
Meg Stewart / Flickr
Bitch Cakes / Flickr

That's a pretty bold new direction, and in the opinion of designer Paul Shaw, it's a "quite ugly" one. Shaw, author of Helvetica and the New York Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story, says the typeface for "Lex 63" is still the subway system's trusted Helvetica. But the letters have been squeezed and stylized to the point of possibly interfering with readability.

"It is just the awful overlapping of the letters and numerals that I object to," says Shaw. "Why? It will reduce readability for people whizzing by in trains. And it is not particularly pleasing."

Shaw says the treatment reminds him a little of the way the number "59" appears, rising and falling along the wall, at the renovated Columbus Circle station (below). "But that was better done," he says.

Wiki Commons

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz says the agency has no comment on the new lettering at this time. We'll keep an eye on future progress photos to see if the new style appears elsewhere along the emerging (and much-needed) line.

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