AIGA Chicago: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

AIGA Chicago presents Designer as Author
Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: a talk and book signing
Paul Shaw
Getty Images
122 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 900
Wednesday, November 16
Registration 6–6:30 pm; Presentation and book signing 6:30–8:30 pm

AIGA Chicago is pleased to present Paul Shaw in our next installment of Designer as Author, an ongoing series devoted to discussing written works with the designer-authors who create them.

The story of signage on the New York City Subway System is both a long and fascinating tale. Once a bewildering hodgepodge of lettering styles, sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and messages, the signs began a radical transition in the mid-1960s. In the hands of design firm Unimark International, the system’s mess gave way to the clarity that reigns today, with station names, directions, and instructions in crisp Helvetica. Ultimately, order triumphed over chaos—but the journey was anything but easy.

New York design historian and lettering artist Paul Shaw knows the story better than anyone, and he’ll be on hand to share it with us on November 16. In a presentation structured after his acclaimed book, he’ll regale us with the ins and outs of how the subway system acquired the distinctive look it has today. Join us for an insightful talk with the author, and buy a book and t-shirt on the way out.

Sponsored by Getty Images.

Atlantic Avenue station (New York City Subway) signage, c.1973.