Saturday, December 12, 2009

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

Blue Pencil is pleased to announce the first Blue Pencil Editions publication: Helvetica and the New York Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story. This is an updated, expanded, annotated and profusely illustrated version of the essay originally written by me for AIGA Voice in the fall of 2008. The book version takes into account new information and is supplemented by comprehensive notes, a bibliography and a chronology of the New York City subway system. Prof. Clifton Hood, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York (1993), has written an introduction.

The hardcover book was designed by myself and Abby Goldstein. It was printed by Capital Offset Company of Concord, New Hampshire and bound by Acme Bookbinding of Charlestown, Massachusetts. It is covered in black linen with “Subway” stamped in white foil on front and back in Akzidenz Grotesk BQ Medium and Neue Helvetica 65 (Medium) respectively. It is sewn with golden yellow headbands to match the golden yellow endpapers. The paper is Anthem matte coated. There are 273 images including many reproductions of pages from various MTA and NYCTA signage manuals.

Helvetica and the New York Subway System has ganerned advance praise from Steve Heller, Ellen Lupton, Richard Hollis, William Drenttel, Massimo Vignelli, Michael Bierut, Tom Geismar, Erik Spiekermann, Margaret Calvert and Alfred Hoffmann (the son of Eduard Hoffmann, the co-designer of Neue Haas Grotesk aka Helvetica). The book can be ordered online at The website was designed by Greg D’Onofrio and Patricia Belen of Kind Company.

One reason that the book has such an ungainly title is that my story of how the sign system evolved over the past forty years is based on personal recollections and evidence that is continually changing. If readers of the book have information that challenges some of my facts or conclusions then I welcome the opportunity to correct the record. If the book does well there is the possibility of a mass market edition and the chance to revise the text. The standards of the Blue Pencil blog apply to this book as much as they do to any of the books that have been dissected here. I just hope that I have caught all of the typographical errors.

I want to thank the following people (in alphabetical order) for making the book possible:
Stephanie Aaron
Erich Alb
Patricia Belen
Michael Bosniak
Colin Brignall
Arlene Bronzaft
Margaret Calvert
Matthew Carter
Joan Charysyn
Alessandro Colizzi
Jan Conradi
Brian Cudahy
Raleigh D’Adamo
Greg D’Onofrio
Tom Geismar
Stuart Gitlow
Abby Goldstein
Stanley Goldstein
Emily Gordon and Print magazine
Doris Halle
Steve Heller
Michael Hertz
Otmar Hoefer and Linotype Library
Alfred Hoffmann
Clifton Hood
Peter Joseph
Jamie Lemoine
Tom Lincoln
Peter Lloyd
Rod McDonald
MIT Museum
John Montemarano
Lars Müller
Jon Naar
NAGO (Dutch Archive of Graphic Designers)
Bob Noorda
Dave Pirmann
James Puckett
Charles Sachs
Carey Stumm
John Tauranac
Teatro Piccolo, Milano
Joe Testagrose
Type Directors Club
Massimo Vignelli
Howard York

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