Above is the TTC’s unnamed official font. Though other fonts are similar––like Futura, which we used for elements of our survey, or Gill Sans––there are none exactly like it. No one knows who designed it, or why it’s not still being used consistently across the TTC.
Enter Joe Clark, who, as we all know, cares entirely too much about the TTC’s typography and signage (but goddammit, if he doesn’t care, who will?). Earlier today, Clark gave a speech at the ATypI 2007 conference in Brighton, England in conjunction with his new paper, “Inscribed in the Living Tile: Type in the Toronto subway.”
The paper not only chronicles the TTC’s typographic history, but details its problems along the way with signage and wayfinding (and we mean “details”; there is a section of the article devoted to arrows). As he writes in that paper, “The TTC had a unique typographic legacy and, by accident or design, destroyed it. But, it turns out, that would not be the last time.” Because of Clark’s crazily-extensive knowledge of accessibility needs, design, and the TTC in general, the paper actually makes for an interesting read for anyone interested in the bits and pieces of the organization’s aesthetic history––how it got to where it is, where it is now, and where it’s headed. Maybe you won’t be outraged when you hear about how the TTC is, in some cases, actually using Arial to stand in for fake Helvetica…but, then again, maybe you totally will.
Image from Joe Clark.