Customer Reviews


11 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rugged types battle it out in the NYC transit ring*. Your commentator Paul Shaw describes the action
Non-creative folk might be perplexed to understand how a typeface could generate this many pages but here they are and it's a riveting read. The chapter titled 'Bringing order out of chaos' sets the scene with a brief description of the rather slapdash style of signage on the huge subway system developed over the decades. The next chapter looks at signage in Boston,...
Published on March 2, 2011 by Robin Benson

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bad and worse
As a 32 year nycta veteran, a private memoribilia collector and life long historian this book left me more in the dark about the topic then bfore I read it. There were more footnotes then info. There are better books and articles out there then readung this book. A total waste
Published 12 months ago by Richard M. Adelman


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rugged types battle it out in the NYC transit ring*. Your commentator Paul Shaw describes the action, March 2, 2011
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
Non-creative folk might be perplexed to understand how a typeface could generate this many pages but here they are and it's a riveting read. The chapter titled 'Bringing order out of chaos' sets the scene with a brief description of the rather slapdash style of signage on the huge subway system developed over the decades. The next chapter looks at signage in Boston, England and Italy, mostly from the sixties onwards (so Harry Beck's map and Edward Johnston's typeface for the London Underground aren't included). The various transit systems had, by now, settled on a sans face loosely based on Standard Medium and in New York this eventually evolved into Helvetica over the years.

I always thought it odd that designers didn't take Standard Medium plus Bold or other sans (the Franklins, News Gothic, Venus et cetera) and just use them without modification. Letter and line spacing seems as important as the typeface in signage. The examples shown in the book have all been made into new faces. Maybe designers feel they must leave their individuality on these projects.

It wasn't until the mid-sixties that the MTA people decided to get to grips with a unified type, graphics and signage system. Unimark's Massimo Vinelli suggested ideas but amazingly, because of money problems, not too much came of the recommendations. It seems clear though that whatever outsiders suggested would have problems because of the way signs were produced. The Transit Authority had their own internal unit for making signs and the type stencils for some of these were actually cut by hand. Design manuals specifying all sorts of character and spacing refinements evaporated in reality.

Shaw devotes a chapter to the development of Helvetica and its ascendancy over all others (check out those horizontal terminals). The last three chapters reveal how it took nineteen years for the type to get established as the sign typeface. Maybe all the work over the years to get it right sort of fades a bit with the expanding use of electronic information signs that use several types of letter generation.

The book was designed by the author (and Abby Goldstein) and it follows a rather unusual format. The text is in paragraph blocks, two to a page, with each ending with a footnote number. These are on the same page and set in five columns. The seventy-six footnotes are really the strength of the book because they carry a huge amount of detailed information. Throw into the mix 286 images and their captions and you get quite busy looking pages. Fortunately it all hangs together beautifully and it looks a handsome looking book (though I would have put .25 fine rules between the footnote columns). The back pages have a timeline, up to 2010, of the subway, a bibliography but oddly no index, I would have thought this was essential in this type of title.

I think Shaw is to be congratulated in writing a fascinating book about a specialist subject and making it come alive though it will probably be a bit too technical for a wider readership. Incidentally he has used a bit of personal whimsy on the book's front and back cover with the word Subway (see one of my uploads) set on the front in Standard and on the back in Helvetica.

* Helvetica by a knock out.

>>>LOOK AT SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Helvetica Triumphed, April 20, 2011
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
The typeface Helvetica is surely the only one that has ever had a movie documentary made about it (and it is a good movie!). Some argue that Helvetica is overused, but if this is true, it is only because it has filled an important typographical niche. It is used especially in public places, especially on civic signs, and many people think that it has always been the typeface for signs in the subways of New York. That's not at all possible; Helvetica is a modern typeface created in 1957. That it is now strongly associated with New York subways, however, just shows how it did take over official and unofficial competitors, but its triumph wasn't easy and it wasn't a sure thing. How Helvetica triumphed is not a simple story; it is full of false leads and missed opportunities. In _Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story_ (MIT Press), design historian and lettering artist Paul Shaw has done quite a bit of detective work about the New York subway's history, as well as touching on transportation graphics in general. The book is large in format and quite beautiful; within its 132 pages are 286 photographs of signs, subway stations, type specimens, maps, and advertisements. Anyone who enjoys thinking about graphics, lettering, or transportation history ought to love this book.

The current single network subway was made from a merger of three separate systems in 1940, and each had its own sign system, but no system was internally consistent. The first signs were mosaics on the station walls to show the names of the stations or directions. The labor-intensive tilings were supplemented by enameled and glazed signs on metal, as well as hand-painted and paper signs, with no unity of color, size, or type, and even the mosaic signs were sometimes painted over. The signs were designed and placed with no overall plan, creating a graphic chaos and missing chances for clearly directing pedestrian traffic. The Transit Authority realized that the chaos needed control, and in 1966 consulted a new design firm, Unimark International; one of its leaders, Bob Noorda, had just designed the graphics for the subway in Milan. Unimark analyzed the patterns of pedestrian traffic in many stations; one of the illustrations shows Noorda's decision tree for Times Square station, with branches for each decision point as the pedestrian eventually got to the proper uptown or downtown or cross-town train. Of course the signs would be in Helvetica, which was unmatched for readability and, well, modernity. The modernists from Unimark were thanked for all their suggestions, and were bid farewell, and the in-house sign-makers went to work, acting on some of Unimark's suggestions but misinterpreting or ignoring others, and generally botching things up. The _Daily News_ dubbed it "Flubway," and Shaw writes, "Merely installing a few new signs was not the same as implementing a coordinated sign system." Stung, the Transit Authority got Unimark back into the act to produce and implement comprehensive signage. Unimark was understandably reluctant to use the in-house sign shop, but the Transit Authority would allow no alternatives. Typefaces had to be chosen from the ones already in the shop, and they did not include Helvetica. Unimark had to settle for a similar sans serif face, Standard Medium, the American name for Akzidenz Grotesk, a very popular font which was based on nineteenth century models; similarly, Standard Medium was the basis for Helvetica. Of course Shaw includes sample sheets of both fonts, and while it might take a font fan to tell the two apart when the letters are actually in use, side-by-side comparison makes the difference visually plain; one of the giveaways is that the ends of Helvetica's letters, as in the capital S, are cut horizontally. For graphic designers, the font has many advantages, especially that it can be set tightly while remaining fully legible. There are different reasons that Standard faded and Helvetica took over (it was declared the official typeface only in 1989), most having to do with Helvetica's increasing adoption by connecting lines, its expanding availability in graphics packages, and its becoming the only typeface that was available for each of the different signage systems.

Shaw's book shows signage and direction as human efforts, and gives a lush portfolio of successes, challenges, and failures along the way to the current system. Helvetica has proved to be unifying for the subways, and the unity has helped with signage themes, which has meant that everyone understands the subway system a little bit better. Helvetica isn't universal; in fact, the title of Shaw's book as it shows up on the front cover mentions Helvetica but isn't in Helvetica. It is wittily set back to Standard, a difference I would not have appreciated before looking over this handsome volume of graphic history.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real-World Duels with the Client Bureaucracy, April 27, 2011
By 
Dezcom "Typeface designer" (Falls Church, VA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
Most often, books on design, present a lovely completed vision of the final product with all their flaws Photoshopped away like a centerfold image. Those of us who have tilted at windmills know the real story behind working with the quagmire of complex institutions.
Paul Shaw has forsaken the "healing tool" in favor of a look at the design process, blemishes and all. He shows us battles lost as well as won. The New York Subway system did not begin life as a well orchestrated plan that was delivered as composed with a single downbeat. There were numerous conflagrations among the many involved factions from planners, designers, local governments, businesses, and unions. What we see today on a subway platform in NYC is a semi-pealed onion revealing layers of history.
Paul makes a fine story of the toils and shows images from all facets of the century-long project still in progress. He jokingly adds "maybe" after True Story in the subtitle but we all know such a story could not be invented. The book is a combination lesson in history, sociology, commerce, and 100 year turf-wars, the stuff real design projects are made of.
My only small quibble with the book is that the layout can be a bit confusing to follow sometimes. This may be because there are so many intriguing illustrations and footnotes that you forget where you were reading. This is hardly a problem though, rereading is a pleasant task and you find things you never knew were there--kind of like repeated trips on the New York subway.

By all means, take it for a ride or two.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sign of the Times?, July 1, 2012
By 
Kim Seale (Richardson, TX) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
This book may easily fall into the category of "everything and more than you ever wanted to know" about the use of typeface or letter styles in the New York City Subway system. On the one hand, it is easy to dismiss this as simply a study of the evolution of a specific font. However, when considered in the overall context of the evolution of the subways of New York City into the current Metro system, it is clear that just like the MTA, what we see today in the signage is a fascinating history of designed plans, some political muscle and a good bit of coincidence.

In a similar vein to those who study the rolling stock or expansion of the route of the NYC Subway over the years, a variety of people may find this book intriguing. People with interests in architecture, graphic design, marketing, history and/or the subway system itself should enjoy this book. It may get tedious partway through, since it tends to get bogged down in minute details. So, trust your instincts about your level of interest. As much as I love the NYC Subways, I would not buy an in-depth study of train engines and propulsion systems, since that's just not my thing. However, if signage as artwork IS your thing, you ought to get this book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, but for a limited audience, April 29, 2011
By 
James Pernikoff (Marietta, Georgia USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
In truth, this book will really only appeal to two distinct groups. One is those interested in (or studying) industrial design, especially those concerned with signage for transportation systems and/or the influence of government authorities on that design. The other (like myself) is fans of the New York Subway system or of rapid transit systems in general. If you belong to one of these groups, you will find the book well done and fascinating. For everyone else? Well, only you can decide. Perhaps the most interesting facet is the depiction of many of the mosaic and other designs used in the system before the current signage was adopted (and much of which is still in use).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bad and worse, January 28, 2014
By 
Richard M. Adelman (East Meadow, New York United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
As a 32 year nycta veteran, a private memoribilia collector and life long historian this book left me more in the dark about the topic then bfore I read it. There were more footnotes then info. There are better books and articles out there then readung this book. A total waste
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift, December 11, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
This was a great gift. It is well-presented, with gorgeous photos. Any font snob or Subway aficionado should have this on their bookshelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Kind of Book on the NYC Subway, March 5, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
Most books about the subway, deal with the history of the system and how it was built. This book focuses on something most of us neglect when we are down in the subway, its signs and placards. I discovered through this book that they have a history in itself that is as intriguing as its building. Must read for subway history buffs and graphic artists.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for those interested in the subject., November 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
I bought this for a young man who is autistic. He has a great love of the New York City subway system and was just thrilled to have this book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book if you want to learn how all ..., October 21, 2014
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story (Hardcover)
This is a fascinating story that combines two of my passions: New York City and typography. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn how all of the New York City subway signage was designed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story
$39.95 $29.09
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.