In 1916 Edward Johnston revealed the type he had been commissioned to create by Frank Pick three years earlier to be used by London Transport on the public transport system. The iconic lettering and bullseye logo he created, which we see every day, has become synonymous with London. Ubiquitous throughout the transport network, most of us (ourselves included) would never give a thought to something we see every day and entirely take for granted.
In the 1970s, London Transport made the decision to modernise the type – with the introduction of technological advances in printing and computers, Johnston’s type was in need of an update. Eiichi Kono was a recent graduate, working for Banks and Miles as a designer when he was offered the opportunity to modify this historic and quintessentially ‘London’ typeface. He began the painstaking process of drawing out each letter, number and punctuation mark by hand: his precision and meticulous nature crucial to bringing Johnson’s work into a new age.
In 1979 he revealed his font, New Johnston, which included new Medium and the lowercase for Bold (the original Johnston had Regular (or Light) and the uppercase for Bold only) and corresponding italics and condensed fonts to give the typeface more scope (better legibility and consistent style for very small to bigger type sizes). He made careful adjustments to the numbers which ensured each letter was the same width (for instance, essential for printing timetables), modernised/enhanced the iconic style (for instance, by introducing the diamond shape for all the punctuations).
Amanda and I had the chance to hear Eiichi talk about this last year, it was fascinating and really made us look closer at our surroundings and appreciate the art which surrounds us. Next time you’re on the tube – take a moment to appreciate the diamond-shape punctuation!