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    Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardback) By (author) Paul Shaw

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    DescriptionFor years, the signs in the New York City subway system were a bewildering hodge-podge of lettering styles, sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and messages. The original mosaics (dating from as early as 1904), displaying a variety of serif and sans serif letters and decorative elements, were supplemented by signs in terracotta and cut stone. Over the years, enamel signs identifying stations and warning riders not to spit, smoke, or cross the tracks were added to the mix. Efforts to untangle this visual mess began in the mid-1960s, when the city transit authority hired the design firm Unimark International to create a clear and consistent sign system. We can see the results today in the white-on-black signs throughout the subway system, displaying station names, directions, and instructions in crisp Helvetica. This book tells the story of how typographic order triumphed over chaos. The process didn't go smoothly or quickly. At one point New York Times architecture writer Paul Goldberger declared that the signs were so confusing one almost wished that they weren't there at all. Legend has it that Helvetica came in and vanquished the competition. Paul Shaw shows that it didn't happen that way--that, in fact, for various reasons (expense, the limitations of the transit authority sign shop), the typeface overhaul of the 1960s began not with Helvetica but with its forebear, Standard (AKA Akzidenz Grotesk). It wasn't until the 1980s and 1990s that Helvetica became ubiquitous. Shaw describes the slow typographic changeover (supplementing his text with more than 250 images--photographs, sketches, type samples, and documents). He places this signage evolution in the context of the history of the New York City subway system, of 1960s transportation signage, of Unimark International, and of Helvetica itself.


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  • Full bibliographic data for Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

    Title
    Helvetica and the New York City Subway System
    Subtitle
    The True (Maybe) Story
    Authors and contributors
    By (author) Paul Shaw
    Physical properties
    Format: Hardback
    Number of pages: 144
    Width: 249 mm
    Height: 287 mm
    Thickness: 20 mm
    Weight: 1,043 g
    Language
    English
    ISBN
    ISBN 13: 9780262015486
    ISBN 10: 026201548X
    Classifications

    B&T General Subject: 140
    B&T Book Type: NF
    BIC geographical qualifier V2: 1KBBEY
    BIC E4L: ART
    B&T Modifier: Region of Publication: 01
    BIC subject category V2: KNGT
    B&T Modifier: Academic Level: 05
    Nielsen BookScan Product Class 3: T1.3
    B&T Modifier: Subject Development: 01
    Ingram Subject Code: AT
    B&T Modifier: Text Format: 03
    Warengruppen-Systematik des deutschen Buchhandels: 15860
    B&T Merchandise Category: UP
    B&T Modifier: Geographic Designator: E6
    BIC subject category V2: AKD
    DC22: 686.2/24, 686.224
    B&T Approval Code: A28441800
    LC subject heading:
    BISAC V2.8: DES008000
    B&T Approval Code: A35286000
    BISAC V2.8: DES007050, TRA009000
    BIC subject category V2: 1KBBEY
    LC classification: Z250.5.H45 S53 2011
    LC subject heading: , , , ,
    BISAC region code: 4.0.1.2.2.0.0
    Thema V1.0: KNG, AKD
    Edition
    1
    Illustrations note
    273 color illus.
    Publisher
    MIT Press Ltd
    Imprint name
    MIT Press
    Publication date
    01 March 2011
    Publication City/Country
    Cambridge, Mass.
    Author Information
    Paul Shaw, an award-winning graphic designer, typographer,and calligrapher in New York City, teaches at Parsons School of Design and theSchool of Visual Arts. He is the coauthor of Blackletter: Type andNational Identity and writes about letter design in the blog BluePencil.
    Review quote
    "A concise history of the New York subway, a visual archive of century's worth of underground signs (some of which are still in use), and an impressive study of the conflict between the purity of design and the messiness of the real world." -- The Wilson Quarterly "[D]esign projects are rarely tidy; they're much likelier to be muddled, chaotic, and to be determined by flukes, gaffes and compromises as much as forethought. It's always refreshing to come across an unexpurgated account of the messy reality, and the American design historian Paul Shaw has produced a particularly thoughtful and engaging example in his new book, Helvetica and the New York City Subway System." -- Alice Rawsthorn The New York Times "Mr. Shaw makes clear in one of the best-researched books on modern design to date, this most New York of places is today a realm dominated by a Swiss typeface specified by a pair of Italian designers. There isn't better testimony to the city as a melting pot or to the strange turns that any major design project inevitably takes." -- The Wall Street Journal