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London's public transportation system is getting a new screen-friendly typeface

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Starting next month, London's public transportation system will start looking a little different. Transport for London (TfL) will begin rolling out a new typeface for the London Underground and the city's bus system. The typeface is called Johnston100, an iteration of the TfL's original Johnston typeface, which has been around since 1916.

100 years is a good time for a change

To recognize the 100th anniversary of Johnston, the TfL asked typeface studio Monotype to revamp Johnston's look for a modern era. As Wired points out, this translated to making Johnston more readable on phones and computers — something the original designers never had to consider. When designing Johnston100, Monotype's team had to make sure commonly used symbols like @ and # were able to fit seamlessly in with the rest of the lettering. The new typeface looks very similar to the old one, but now it comes in five different weights. "Hairline" and "Thin" are entirely new; they're made for mobile reading.


Monotype's Type Director Nadine Chahine said they had to make sure not to lose Johnston's endearing peculiarities (like its bulbous U) during the design process. "The latest versions had started to become slightly mechanical, and a little bit uniform," Chahine said in a Monotype blog post. "There were certain idiosyncrasies in the typeface that we thought were a little bit quirky, but they were good. If we can bring them back, then that might bring back some of that original soul."

As you can see in the image below (via BBC), the differences between the new and old typefaces are minor. (Johnston100 is in blue):


The typeface is already being used on the TfL's website. Johnston100 will begin popping up on maps and posters beginning next month, and will roll out to trains and in stations over the next few years.