Toronto Type

I’ve had this page open in my browser for weeks now, demanding that I say something about it. Joe Clark writes a comprehensive critique of the state of typography on the Toronto subway system, from great beginnings to the chaos of today. From the introduction:

You might not expect something typographically unique to come out of Toronto, a B-tier city that stands in the shadow of A-tier cities even in the minds of some residents. But the margins are where originality can thrive, and the typography of the Toronto subway is a prime example. It is also an example of subverting, ignoring, and actively destroying a special typographic heritage - quite an achievement considering that the type involved is almost a foot high and permanently sandblasted into subway walls.

The article goes on to describe the poor state of information design for signage across the subway system, provides comparisons with New York’s system and shows us what can happen to type when people really don’t care (check out the letterspacing on Leslie, about halfway through the article). It makes you appreciate, even more, just how good London Underground’s type system really is.

The appalling thing is that the original type in Toronto’s system was really rather good, I love the R especially - it is, dare I say it, cute. See some more examples from the article below, then set aside half an hour or so and go and read the article.