Saturday, May 23, 2009

The True Story of Helvetica is Awesome

Wow, is this worth the time to read! This entire article about Helvetica and it's role within the NYC subway system is incredibly fascinating. Check out the entire story here.

There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? What was chosen in its place? Why is Helvetica used now, and when did the changeover occur? To answer those questions this essay explores several important histories: of the New York City subway system, transportation signage in the 1960s, Unimark International and, of course, Helvetica. These four strands are woven together, over nine pages, to tell a story that ultimately transcends the simple issue of Helvetica and the subway.

Pentagram's Redesign of MOMA Promo Materials Rock

Michael Bierut's Pentagram firm is one of the best. They recently redesigned the promotional materials for MOMA, and in the article linked below discusses the redesign in detail. Go to the actual story to see some excellent examples of this process. Superb stuff here.

Along with the many signature artworks in its collection, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) possesses one of the most recognizable logotypes of any cultural institution in the world. In recent years, however, the application of this identity across the museum’s broader graphics program has been indistinct. Now MoMA has recast its identity, building on its familiar logotype to create a powerful and cohesive institutional voice. The new graphic identity has been designed by Paula Scher, and further developed and applied by Julia Hoffmann, MoMA’s Creative Director for Graphics and Advertising (and a Pentagram alumna).

While the MoMA logo is iconic, it alone is not enough to continually carry the spirit of the institution. An organized and flexible system was required that would support program material across print, web and environmental applications. The new system designed by Scher and Hoffmann employs prominent use of the MoMA logo as a graphic device, dramatic cropping and juxtapositions of artwork, and a brighter color palette to create a bold, contemporary image. The identity also underscores the museum’s leadership role in the field of design.

A look at the new identity after the jump. All pictured applications designed by Julia Hoffmann and her team at MoMA.

MoMA’s identity has been a landmark of institutional branding since 1964, when the museum introduced its distinctive Franklin Gothic No. 2 logotype designed by Ivan Chermayeff. In 2004 this logotype was redrawn in a new custom typeface, MoMA Gothic, created by Matthew Carter. The new identity system expands on this logotype, making MoMA Gothic the principal font for all typography. More importantly, the system creates a complete methodology for the identity’s application and handling across all platforms.

An appropriate scale and careful cropping were developed to make the identity more recognizable and powerful, and to create an attitude that modernizes the institution’s image. A strong grid has been established for the uniform placement of elements. Images of artworks appear whole or are cropped for effect. (Prior to this, the museum did not typically crop images of artworks.) The images are paired with the logotype, which has a consistent vertical placement similar to the signage on the museum’s fa├žade. In most applications, one large image is selected as the focus, representing a current exhibition or signature work from the collection. A list of upcoming events unrelated to the featured image is organized into a text block.