37 – Johnston Sans

blue plaque

The wonderful thing about doing this blog is the way one thing can lead to another.  A map of coffee shops leads to thoughts of the design heritage of London Underground – not only the map but the instantly recognisable roundel, the architecture of Charles Holden stations and, perhaps above all, the typeface Johnston Sans.

To me it is a consistent source of amazement that the font was designed as long ago as 1916, as it still looks fresh and is a million miles away from designs you would expect from the Edwardian/WW1 era. (You will see conflicting dates as to when the font was created, with some people crediting last year as the centenary but 1913 was the year Johnston got the design brief, he actually delivered it in two stages: block face in 1915 and full set in 1916).

If you are at all interested in the history of the design and its evolution into the modern New Johnston (the original was only meant for display and only existed in metal or wooden blocks, and so was not fully adapted for the computer age), I would recommend this article.

But the story of the importance of design is not today’s moment of pleasure. Instead it is learning that the Blue Plaque, which commemorates Edward Johnston is in his typeface. it must be the only plaque that is an actually example of the reason the person was notable. That sort of recursiveness is always amusing.

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