I made a trip up to London today. I just happened to be in the vicinity of Regent Street so I popped into the new Apple store. It’s quite a stunning shop and I was, needless to say, in my element.
But I’m not going to gush on about all things Mac-related. Instead, I wanted to mention something that has struck me every time I’m in the capital and specifically, when I’m using public transport:
I really, really like the typeface that London Transport use on all the tube stations and bus stops in London.
I always assumed it was a fairly modern design just because it has such a contemporary feel to it. But recently I was watching the original version of The Ladykillers from 1955 and I spotted the very same typeface in the background (I’m not the only movie type-spotter).
I did a little research and found out that the typeface was actually commissioned by Frank Pick way back in 1916. It’s the work of one Edward Johnston in whose name a foundation has been formed. The typeface was slightly tweaked in 1980 but it has been more or less in constant use for almost 90 years.
The collaboration of Pick and Johnston must have been a match made in heaven. They also gave us the superb London Underground roundel.
Frank Pick’s philosophy is clear from this quote:
"The test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it better; it will only become more expensive and more foolish."
I bet Jonathan Ive has that on a post-it note somewhere.