Helvetica and the New York City Subway System passes a milestone

When The MIT Press offered to republish Helvetica and the New York City Subway System they initially planned a print run of 3000 copies. While it was far more than the modest 500 copies that Blue Pencil Editions did originally, it was a standard quantity for design titles. But The MIT Press quickly changed their minds and, to my astonishment, upped the figure to 5000 copies. Their faith in the book, especially that of their executive editor Roger Conover, has been amply rewarded as the second edition—officially published less than a year ago—sold out early in January and the book has already gone into a second printing. The quantity is small potatoes compared to the number of copies sold by Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or even Malcolm Gladwell. But for a design book the sales are gratifying.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System has just garnered more praise. Under the title “The Commuting Type”, Joshua J. Friedman has written a positive review of the book for the Winter 2011–2012 issue of Columbia Magazine. “While Shaw painstakingly catalogs the evolution of the transit authority’s graphics standards manual and canvasses the world’s transit design schemes of the 1960s,” he writes, “the reader can happily float above the text and enjoy photographs of early-century [sic] mosaic signs, bygone graffiti-strewn interiors of subway cars and stations, and archival maps and documents.”