The following is a letter I wrote to the TTC in May 2007.
Let me provide some corrections to the staff report dated 2007.05.08.
- The Paul Arthur signage system developed for St. George was tested and the results did not predominantly state that “there were elements in the prototype signage that would assist riders.” In fact, “the general population” expressed no clear preference, but “special-interest groups,” including low-vision people and those with poor literacy, preferred the new design. There were no “elements” to pick and choose from.
- The Commission did not come up with the money to implement the Paul Arthur design system-wide, so TTC made the fatal mistake of tinkering. The present report confirms that “[t]he current TTC wayfinding signage standards” are a hodgepodge of different systems. In other words, it’s no system at all. It’s just like the Paul Arthur design except for typeface, type size, linespacing, colour, pictographs, pylon signs, arrows, TTC logotype, terminology, philosophy, and proven test results.
- Blandishments about the fake Helvetica font used by TTC are out of place. Swiss 721 is Bitstream’s clone of Helvetica. It isn’t a “licensed font” in that context, but if you want to talk licensing, note that TTC distributes font files to contractors without permission. The font wasn’t “selected”; it came free with CorelDraw, so that’s what a billion-dollar transit system standardized on. Vague nonexpert descriptions like “more neutral and contemporary characteristics” mean nothing; test results do, and not only can I prove that Helvetica functions poorly in signage applications, I have (for GO Transit). Helvetica, fake or real, actually does not have “clarity and legibility” in sign applications.
- Staff want us to believe that passengers are OK with station-domination advertising. Even if a majority of respondents polled were willing to grit their teeth and put up with it (what choice do they have?), that doesn’t make it right. Some things are questions of principle. Passengers should not have to ask “Is this St. George station or Pizza Pizza station?” Such campaigns subvert signage and wayfinding. TTC has no test results proving that station-domination campaigns do not harm wayfinding.
- Commission to ask staff to report on exactly how “significant” the “revenue” is from station-domination campaigns (actual dollar figures since inception), and to provide reasons why 100% of that revenue should not be directed toward signage improvement and testing, one of the several options available that do not require new line items.
- Commission to authorize staff to conduct an inventory of existing signage, to provide hard numerical data. TTC staff have a relevant proposal in hand.