TTC Signs is a project of public documentation and activism. I’ve been interested in typography and graphic design for over 25 years, and I have a long record of published articles and presentations. For one of those articles, I interviewed Paul Arthur (1924–2001), the British-born Canadian graphic designer.
At the time (1993), Paul Arthur was working on a prototype signage system for the TTC. The system was installed in one half of St. George station and was tested. All groups tested preferred the new system, including the “general population” and riders who could be considered vulnerable, like low-vision people and ESL speakers. Despite the fact that the new designs were a demonstrated improvement, they were never implemented – reportedly because TTC commissioners at the time failed to approve the $8 million it would have cost.
Signage has been a disaster ever since then – much worse than before Arthur’s experiment, in fact.
Even TTC commissioners and staff admit that signage is a problem – particularly after my presentation to the TTC in January 2007. But in June 2007, the acting general manager of the TTC, Gary Webster, stated at a TTC meeting that the current sign “standard” is just fine. We have here a classic case of senior management’s contradicting his own staff and common sense.
But it’s much worse than that. Under the guise of station cleaning and renovation, TTC plans to remove and destroy irreplaceable signage, including all the Paul Arthur signs lining the walls of subway platforms at St. George. There are no other copies of those signs; they are unique and irreplaceable artifacts.
I have decided to step up my efforts to prompt the TTC into saving old signs and, later, properly researching and testing one or more new signage systems.
TTC has been sitting on a solicited proposal from me to conduct a numerical inventory of signage types in the system. Of course I’d get paid for that work; you can’t reasonably expect me to do any more work for free for a billion-dollar corporation, and you get paid for your work. The aim of these pages is not chiefly to round up paying work even if you think it is.
As of 2007.07.11, there is now an FAQ.
The header for these TTC Signs pages is not typeset from some kind of font created from the original signage on subway walls. I didn’t use David Vereschagin’s Toronto Subway Regular, nor do I have access to a mythical TrueType font that TTC itself ostensibly drew.
In fact, the header is taken from scans of the original drawings for the TTC font. I simply moved letters into position to form words, rather like using Letraset. I kind of like the messy look, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
I’m giving a presentation on TTC typography at the prestigious ATypI conference this September in Brighton. I may do a dry run here in Toronto before I go.
You can check my main Contact page, or just send mail to
joeclark at joeclark.org.