|Helvetica only became the standard typeface for the subway system in recent decades. |
(Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
"Mr. Shaw says the subway design team original chose Standard as the universal typeface in 1966, not Helvetica. A manual of that time declared that “of the various weights of sans serif available, Standard Medium has been found to offer the easiest legibility from any angle, whether the passenger is standing, walking or riding.” (Sign legibility when your audience is in motion continues to be a vexing problem.)
Helvetica was originally created in Switzerland. It was a neutral typeface from a neutral country and gained runaway popularity starting in the 1960s for its modern grace. But the subway system looked elsewhere."