A hundred years of Johnston typeface

100 years of Johnston typeface

As the iconic London underground typeface, Johnston celebrates one hundred years of politely telling Londoners where to get off, School of Design Lecturer, Paul Wilson shares with The Conversation how London’s most famous lettering came to be.

In 1916, calligrapher Edward Johnston unified the branding of The Underground Group, creating a simple font which was used across the entire railway network, getting rid of the mix-match of signage and typography previously used.

Johnston, type, typeface, London, underground

Celebrations for the centenary of the typeface have been planned throughout the year, giving recognition to the design which is still guiding Londoners and visitors alike through the city’s complex transport system to this day.

Writing for The Conversation, Dr Paul Wilson describes how the typeface we know today came to fruition:

“The typeface’s 1979 redesign by Colin Banks and John Miles placed Johnston at the centre of a strategic rebranding for London Transport. They reined in some of Johnston’s typographic idiosyncrasies, by reducing the ratio between a stroke’s height and thickness, and breaking the rule that the stroke of a letter must be a constant width.

“These interventions helped to shape the typeface that so powerfully embodies the character of the city; steeped in history and tradition, while striving towards an ideal of modernity; resolute and resourceful, unique and efficient.”