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Transport / Mass transit

The London Underground is updating its font

The London Underground’s visual identity – its roundels, its colours, its much-loved map – has an almost legendary quality.

As such, the design world was sent all a-quiver when it learned that TfL was planning to redesign Johnson, its iconic font, “for the digital age”. What if it wasn’t so classy? What if the lovely square-shaped dot on the i was lost?? What if- 

Oh.

What you see above is Johnson100, the first update to the Johnson font made since the 1970s. And, as you might have notived, it looks, to the naked, non-design eye, essentially identical to the font Londoners see every day. 

According to Monotype, the type company behind the update, the changes were made to make the letters more readable on digital screens, and bring back the soul and quirk of the original font designed by Edward Johnson . As far as we can see, this has manifested itself in very slightly wider letters and a reinstated distinctive diagonal bowl on the lower-case g:

Yes, it is different. Look harder. 

To be fair, though, the biggest innovation in the new font family is two brand-new weights: hairline and thin. These will be used largely online, and promise to be more readable than the impact-heavy, slightly overwhelming paret font. According to Monotype this required designers to strip [the] typeface of its mass and find its skeleton. Which sounds pretty tricky, really. 

Luckily, even these new weights maintain the diamond above the i and j:

Monotype has also released this video with more detail on how they developed the new design:


The typeface will be rolled out from July this year, though signage in stations will only be replaced when necessary, so you’ll see the font online first. Let’s be honest, though – it’s not like you’ll actually notice. 

All images: Monotype.


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