Designers react to the new London Underground font


Johnston100 retains the signature diamond-shaped 'tittles'

Johnston, the straightforward but elegantly quirky font found on the London Underground has been guiding commuters effortlessly for a century. Yesterday saw the unveiling of a subtle redesign for the typeface, which will help the retro font work on digital platforms.

Designed by Monotype, the polished font dubbed Johnston100 aims to recapture the soul of the original design which has slowly been diluted over the years.

Harking back to calligrapher Edward Johnston's original lettering, with its emphasis on "bold simplicity", Johnston100 continues this tradition by introducing a variety of new weights that will work more efficiently on various screen sizes.


The hairline font was added by Monotype as a bonus

Despite minor changes over the decades, Johnston has remained a consistent and recognisable part of London's identity. Unsurprisingly then, Johnston100 isn't so much a redesign of the beloved typeface, but more of a smartening up to ensure that it remains fit for purpose for another 100 years.

“We didn't want to redesign it, but we did know that certain things, for various reasons, had changed,” says Transport for London Head of Design Jon Hunter. “Some of the lower case letters, for example had lost their uniqueness.”


Johnston100 will safeguard the font for years to come

Even to the trained eye, Johnston100 is a very subtle update. But as Hunter mentioned, the changes can be found in lower case letters such as the diagonal bowl in the letter g. Meanwhile the uppercase U has been made wider.

It is hoped that these idiosyncrasies will revive some of the font's soul. Some previous iterations had made the typeface mechanical and uniform.

While the changes may appear minor on the surface, they've generated a huge and positive reaction from designers.

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With a design that Monotype Type Director Nadine Chahine describes as being "like you have someone with you, holding your hand, along the way," it seems that the personality of Johnston is set remain a popular and accessible part of the London landscape.

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Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.