Flying Font Friday 1

Helvetica airport signage

Also see my post Flying Font Friday 2, about typeforms found in butterfly wings.

Why the Same Three Typefaces Are Used In Almost Every Airport

From Gizmodo by Alissa Walker
Wayfinding signage is an invisible network draped upon our public places. And that network has to work especially hard in airports when we’re lost, hungry, and exhausted. Especially when helping us navigate in jetlagged states using strange languages, good wayfinding means sticking to clear, legible typefaces. So how do designers choose?”It’s like a spiderweb—you can’t touch one spot without making the whole web move,” says Jim Harding, who designed the wayfinding system for Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport, the busiest airport on the planet. In an interview adapted from David Zweig’s book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, Harding takes us through the design catacombs of the Atlanta airport (okay, the terminals) to show us how he developed an international graphic language to prevent passengers from getting lost. In addition to all sorts of fascinating details about the behavior of travelers, the story includes this fascinating nugget: Just three typefaces are used in the wayfinding signage for 75 percent of airports: Helvetica, Frutiger, and Clearview.

It makes perfect sense that airports would employ sans serif typefaces, which are easier to read at a distance (and bad for small, on-screen type). But there are also some pretty sweet little details found within these typefaces which make them winners for airport signage. Here are the three you’re most likely to find at an airport near you.

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Type-o-philes Scour NYC for Urban Signage Project

New York City signage: "No Parking"

By Jakob Schiller from

[Ed. Entertainingly, this article was originally titled “Type-o-PATHS Scour NYC for Urban Signage Project.”]

New York City is such a sensory overload, it’s easy to miss the details — like the graphical symphony of typography that’s playing under your visual field. aims to bring that symphony to the surface by capturing all the different typefaces that plaster the walls of New York City in an Instagram hashtag. From signs to posters to handbills, the site, which launched this week, hopes to highlight the ways in which letters and words help give New York a particular aesthetic and character.

“I feel like cataloging [the typography] is a celebration of the craft of design and of the city,” says Matthew Anderson, the site’s editor [continued below].

Anderson, 33, along with a couple of friends, started a similar blog back in 2007 but it was too sporadically updated. Now, thanks to more camera phones, Instagram and hashtags, they’ve found a solution. Their current site uses Instagram’s API and culls any photo with the hashtag #nyctype. Their contributor pool has, predictably, grown, and hundreds of submissions have already rolled in.

Anderson says he keyed in on typography because it’s an important part of every New Yorker’s daily life. Residents there are bombarded with visual messages. Unfortunately, he says, the uniqueness of the signs that fill the boroughs has been diminishing. Hand painted displays used to be more common but are on the decline and he’s personally on a mission to document as many of these one-offs before they disappear. He prefers the hand painted signs because he thinks there’s an art and certain amount of humanity to them. For him, the mass-produced or more corporate-looking signs that now dominate the city have less soul. (While graffiti makes its way onto the hashtag, it’s not Anderson’s focus).

“We have a visual culture that is erupting but it’s often guided by people who care more about marketing and less about design,” he says.

Down the road, Anderson says he’d like to find a streamlined way to incorporate higher-res photos taken by people with DSLRs. Including video is also a possibility. Beyond that, he’s thinking about white-labeling his website as a platform for general hashtag curation.

“My passion is typography,” he says. “But I realize that this is one of those ideas that could be used for any topic.”

Uncovering the First, Fascinating Rulebook for [New York City] Subway Sign Design

New York City Subway Signage Standards Manual

New York City Subway Signage Standards ManualFrom

Late one night last August, three Pentagram designers rummaging through the design firm’s basement archives found the Rosetta Stone of New York subway graphics: the original Standards Manual, designed by Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli in the late 1960s.

The 180-page binder, the key to the system’s iconic design choices, outlines a meticulous vision of signage intended not merely to look good — though it does — but to simplify navigation of the subterranean labyrinth. In its attention to passenger behavior, the manual goes above and beyond what most of us would term graphic design.

The existence of the book is well-known; its contents legendary. But apart from a few off-kilter snapshots posted to Flickr in 2006, images of the document itself were scarce. So when Niko Skourtis, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth found the 1970 manual in a locker beneath a pile of dirty clothes in the Pentagram basement, they did the world a favor and posted its pages, PDF by PDF, on a new website.

[Full article]