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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where do Tube Font designers go for inspiration?

There's something about Dogs & Ditchling

I'm not quite sure what the attractions of a small English village on the edge of the South Downs are, but it seems to be an inspirational source for some of Britain's most influential font designers, including Edward Johnston (he of the Johnston Tube Font) and Eric Gill (his pupil, who invented Gill Sans). Crikey, wouldn't it be cool to have a font named after you?

Original Johnston roundel drawing 1925

In 1907 Eric Gill began a sort of artisans' community on Ditchling Common, where he could live out his ideas of self-sufficiency, asceticism and Catholicism, and also continue to explore his passions for typography, engraving and err... sexual shenanigans. "According to the 1989 biography by Fiona MacCarthy, Gill's relationships included two of his sisters and two of his daughters. His personal diaries also describe, in great detail, regular sexual activity between himself and the family dog." (I love Wikipedia).

Lots of his friends came to join him in Ditchling (hopefully not in his sexual practices). These designers and artists included his former teacher, the idiosyncratic Edward Johnston, who created the Tube's iconic font and the world famous London Underground roundel. Johnston reworked the Underground logo with his new typeface and incorporated it with a red ring.

Thanks to Marc, I learnt that The Ditchling Museum - a former Victorian schoolhouse - is putting on an intimate and revealing exhibition dedicated to Johnston's work. "The show will also celebrate the range of creativity that Johnston was capable of - both the public (it is extraordinary to think the designs for the radical new transport system of the time, The Tube, were designed in his studio in this rural village) and the personal (books for his children)."

Johnston was also a calligraphy expert and his 1906 book Writing, Illuminating & Lettering is considered a calligraphy Bible. So it's fitting that 100 years later an exhibition is staged in his countryside haven and hideaway.

With Pen Ink & Paper: Being Edward JohnstonPerhaps you need to escape from the city in order to get a bit of perspective on it and design a font and icon that cuts through the clutter. The clarity of the typeface made it a perfect information tool, and it's been used on posters, signage, the Tube Map and publicity since its creation in 1913. The Johnston typeface was redesigned in 1979 by Eiichi Kono at Banks & Miles to produce New Johnston, which is the variant currently used by Transport for London.

With Pen Ink & Paper: Being Edward Johnston runs until the 1st October at the Ditchling Museum, Church Lane, Ditchling, Sussex, and is £3.50 for adults, a quid for students and children go free.

; Posted by Annie Mole Tuesday, June 20, 2006 Permalink COMMENT HERE