What’s new at TTC Signs

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Seven years after closing up shop, I am updating this site with important news. And that news is we got paid to write a signage evaluation report for the TTC!


Somebody tell that tenured metrosexual Mark QueenKingwell that the TTC font isn’t remotely “reminiscent of” Gill Sans or Transport. What letter was he comparing, the O?


I was at the unveiling of Museum station yesterday. And now I give up.


This just in: The original tile design of the TTC, now 50 years old, was “a mistake.” Who says? Adam Giambrone, age 29.

I see I was right all along.


A last stand for TTC preservationists: TTC staff are trying to get permission to destroy and renovate all but six subway stations any way they want. As such, they’re trying to do an end run around the Toronto Preservation Board. Read how TTC plans to “diversify” – and destroy – its heritage  



Explanation of columns and inscriptions at Museum station.


Story on the Museum débâcle (not “kitsch”) by esteemed colleague Weisblott.



Year 1 in review.


A new page just for Museum station, with proof these people still don’t know how to letterspace their own type even after admitting they screwed it up on the Sheppard line.


Three items for you.

  1. Handwritten signs are not the problem: Response to TTC report (PDF) on handwritten signs
  2. Proposal for a design competition for Union Station
  3. Proposal to upgrade some Yonge-line stations with new steel plates for station identification


Hell, let’s have some good news: They painted the letters on the walls of Donlands station.  


Two new items, one of them a shocker!  

  1. Proposal to tear down Glencairn and Lawrence West stations and replace them with something as beautiful as Dupont (yes)
  2. Response to my call for cancellation of the Museum Renaissance project (guess what they said; then guess how they said it)


Another giant piece from Ed Keenan in Eye Weekly, this time about the Toronto Preservation Board and its “collision course with the TTC.” Juicy quotes from Adam Vaughan (emphasis added):

[The TTC acts like it is] too cheap to be special... The old subway stations were beautiful, and they found their own economy. It’s the roots of the wealthiest transit system in the world in terms of being able to generate passengers and off-peak passengers.... That finds its roots in the attention to detail of the earlier generations who used to run it....

When we built the subway, we built it as one big project. That in and of itself is what the design of the subway speaks to – [a time] when we had the confidence and the ability and the vision to build infrastructure the size and the scope of the Bloor subway line. That’s an amazing mindset compared to what we have today, where if we’re really lucky we could add a station and if we do, it should just be bare concrete because everyone will think we’re rich if we do it any other way. We didn’t just sort of go to a computer and print some signs, we designed a friggin’ typeface.  


I did in fact address the Toronto Preservation Board yesterday, and I got exactly what I wanted: They’re planning to designate all the stations currently slated for renovations, the Bloor-Danforth line, and the Yonge-University line from St. George to Eglinton as heritage properties. This may not have enormous practical effect, but it’s still important.  



Video from my presentation at ATypI is now posted (see blog).


We’re in the Tubby today. Suddenly I am a “ ‘font’ man.” I guess that’s true. Correction, though: I didn’t apply for a “job” with the TTC to count their signs; it was merely a solicited proposal.  

2007.10.22 & 25

TTC Type & Tile Tour (TTTT): I’m hosting a tour of Bloor-Danforth TTC stations. We‘ll look at priceless old typography, unique tiles, and the TTC’s crappy and half-arsed replacements for both.

Starts at Victoria Park (new!) next Sunday, October 28, at 1400 hours sharp.  


Two new items of documentation:


HEY LOOKIT: Another feature from New York City transit signage for the TTC to clone.  


This one was somewhat buried, so here’s a bigger pitch: Ontario College of Art and Design student José Ongpin has concisely encapsulated 50 years of typographic history in four information-dense illustrations, published here (PDF) by permission.  


3M boxes sit on cart as a man in a safety vest tends to a white-and-red-covered column

2007.09.16 & 18

OK, it’s ready: “Inscribed in the Living Tile” (shorter version). It’s 50 pages and 2 MB in size, so give it a while.

Speaking notes also posted (2007.09.18).  


Everything you ever wanted to know about TTC signage comes out on Sunday. In time for my (second) presentation at ATypI Brighton, I’ll release the 50-page, 16,000-word, 50-image, 70-citation research paper, “Inscribed in the Living Tile.” More concise speaking notes from the conference will come along later.  


I’m giving a presentation at the ATypI conference in Brighton in two weeks on TTC signage. So let’s start a countdown: 14 Days to ATypI (intro).  


Toronto’s national newspaper has deigned to notice the effacement of Museum station. But, in an example of lazy journalism, Alex Bozikovic calls up that old standby, Matt Blackett, for a quote. What the hell does he have to do with it?

There’s no mention of the fact that the entire Museum reno is nothing more than a corporate tax dodge for the benefactors of the obscure Toronto Community Foundation. Jack Diamond’s quote essentially states that, unless a Toronto subway station is “like the art-nouveau Paris Metro or the London Underground,” every single station should and must be renovated “to give an impression of what’s happening above ground.” (Quick: What would Bessarion look like then? Greenwood?) We need wholesale gutting of that kind because the Bloor-Danforth line is a clone of the London Underground. Funny, I thought we were only cloning New York.

There were, however, some spot-on remarks from architect Michael McClelland. And maybe because he’s out of town or something, we didn’t see a quote from another standby, Steve Munro, who, very much to his credit, opposes the whole misadventure.

Now, I am the person – the only person – who filed a written call to cancel the Museum Renaissance. I am the first two hits on Google for "Museum Renaissance". I just finished writing three whole pages, for publication in September, on the true history of this misadventure. (In this context, the grande dame of the ROM, Bill Thorsell, used the word “miasma.” It goes downhill from there.) Not only was I not even asked for a quote, I have to sit here and read a story that gives Giambrone yet another opportunity to reiterate his corporate talking point about imposing Sheppard signage on everything, which is the problem.

When I was writing for newspapers and magazines, I at least canvassed more than the usual suspects.  


I have finished a 13,000-word paper on type in the Toronto subway. You will, however, have to wait till September to read it.  


Redesigned the homepage. I’d wager you think that photograph is officially impossible to take.  










I have reason to believe within the next couple of days there will be Adequate Good News, and possibly in the medium term there will be Significant Good News. I’m gonna wait till I have something to link to, though.  


Added my notes on statements by General Manager Gary Webster on signage at the June 2007 TTC meeting. This would be where he told the Commission the current sign “standard” is just fine.  


We relaunch – as Save TTC Signs. I’ve already sent letters to all TTC Commissioners and their executive assistants; to the TTC; to Paul Arthur’s widow; and to the head of the ROM library and archives, where Paul Arthur’s papers reside.

Upcoming addition: Full pages on the current state of signage at stations that are scheduled for renovation, like Pape.

We’re now “on the Facebook.” (21:58  )