Free Lecture and Book-Signing: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

Paul Shaw
Helvetica and the New York City Subway System
Albany Institute of History & Art
Albany, New York
2 pm, Sunday, 22 May 2011

For 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 lecture is free and open to the public. Call 518 463-4478 for more information.

Albany Institute of History & Art 125 Washington Avenue,  Albany, NY 12210
Tel: 518.463.4478 Email: