London’s Iconic Fonts
Everywhere we go we are bombarded with adverts, signs, posters, instructions etc, all in very specific typefaces. Without us even consciously paying that much attention, occasionally these fonts and typefaces can come to define our association with a place. They can be instantly recognisable to a very specific location or service.
London is no different. There are number of iconic fonts and works of design which this city has become synonymous with over the years. Some of these are more recognisable than others whilst some have the most incredible history in this great city. We’ve compiled what we think are the top 5 typefaces associated with London and even provided you with places to purchase them so that now all you budding designers can create your own London signs in the comfort of your own house!
The Doves font is so much part of the city that it was actually recovered from the bottom of the Thames! It was created for the Doves Press at the beginning of the last century, but when the owners fell out one of them threw 2600lbs of the typeface into the Thames. Cut to 2010 and London designer Robert Green recreated the font from the books that the Doves Press printed, and then went as far as hiring divers to bring back pieces of the lost type from the Thames. For sheer dedication, this we believe that this is the ultimate London font. It’s gorgeous and evokes a nostalgic vision of Victorian London while managing not to be clicheed or twee.
Transport For London’s font is as much part of the city’s iconography as the Routemaster or the Roundel. Most importantly for a font of this calibre, New Johnston is instantly recognisable (check out the iconic diamonds over the i and j). But before you get carried away, you have to apply to be able to use it.
As if to make a point about how fundamental this type-face is to the city, the remarkably similar free font that anyone can get (again, check out the diamonds over the i and j) is simply called London http://www.dafont.com/london-between.font
In 1967 Sir Misha Black designed street signs for the new City of Westminster Borough. It’s beautifully simple. The sign is split into two by a thin black line with the name of the borough beneath it. Above the line is the the street name in black condensed type beside the postcode in red. This is the Abbey Road sign. It’s Regent Street, Whitehall and Knightsbridge and it’s fantastic. The design itself is copyright of Westminster Council, but we can’t help feeling that there’s a few souvenirs out there that they don’t get their cut from.
OK, it’s used everywhere, but London can still claim it for its own. It was designed in 1929 for the Times of London by Stanley Morison of Monotype. If you look hard enought, and can ignore the fact that it looks like every word document you’ve ever received, it has a wonderfully pre-war traditional London tone to it. This is where you get it from, but let’s face it you’ve got it already.
Another pre-war font, Albertus was designed in London by Berthold Wolpe. It’s the typeface of choice of the Corporation of London and was memorably used by Patrick McGoohan to brand the 60s countercultural sci-fi series The Prisoner, in which Patrick McGoohan desperately spends every episode trying to get back to the city.
Imagine that you’re Mayor of London, you commission new brand guidelines for the city. Wouldn’t you balk a little, if the agency recommended a font which is basically called ‘grotesque accident’? Well akzidenz grotesk is the Mayor’s font, and to be honest we quite like it. It’s contemporary and clean but will it ever rival New Johnston Sans? Only time will tell.