Choosing just the right typeface for a project can be tricky. There are millions of the damn things. Serif or sans? Perhaps Helvetica? Or maybe the ITC-Extra-Bold-Condensed-Outline-Grotesque-55-Itaglio-Serraglio? Or perhaps not. It’s fine if you have the budget to have a unique typeface designed (in fact it’s more than fine, it’s bloomin’ brilliant!) You can define all the subtle nuances needed, refine and test, then voilà; pixel-perfect loveliness.
Most of the time though, it’s over to My Fonts or perhaps somewhere like Hype For Type, for a trawl through all the possibilities. And hopefully, eventually, you end up with just the right face, one that conveys the personality and essence of the design. It can be time-consuming and not always that easy.
Even so, it’s hugely disappointing that the signage designers of the Northern Centre for Cancer at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital decided upon Johnston Underground, the legendary sans serif design developed by Edward Johnston for the London Underground system in 1916.
Why? Why on earth would you specify one of the truly great, iconic typefaces of the last century, that is recognised, along with the roundel logo and Harry Beck’s map, as one of the key elements in the first and still amongst the best, corporate identities in the world? Was it simply a case of “A font for the signage? Well, the London Underground have a good one, we’ll just use that.” Surely not.
If there isn’t the time or the budget, there’s nothing wrong in using Frutiger or Helvetica or any number of sometimes dull, but always hard-working fonts. It’s a hospital, the creativity is defined by the functionality and that overrides everything. A little more thought next time please.