The Moscow Metro is getting a wayfinding facelift, with a new custom font, pictograms, and maps. Created exclusively for the Moscow Department of Transport, the overall program was developed and directed by UK/US-based City ID, with the typeface and pictograms designed by Henrik Kubel and Scott Williams of the London-based studio, A2/SW/HK, with UK designer Margaret Calvert as type and pictogram consultant. The Cyrillic script was designed in collaboration with Ilya Ruderman.
Replacing a hodgepodge of fonts and styles implemented over the decades, the new signage is standardized around a custom font called Moscow Sans, which has letterforms for both the English and Russian Cyrillic alphabets. Accompanying Moscow Sans is a full set of universally recognizable pictograms.
Simple and modern, the new signage brings uniformity and clarity to the wayfinding system. Equally important, the signage doesn’t clash with the amazing interior architecture of stations built in the 1930s by some of the USSR’s leading architects and artists. Referred to as “Stalin’s people’s palaces,” the early subway stations are worthy of being museums, with art that includes bas-reliefs, friezes, bronze and marble statues, stained glass windows and lots of mosaics. The styles of the stations range from Baroque to Classicism to Art Deco. The new signage fits right in. The program is being implemented in all Moscow stations during 2015.
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When it came to designing a graphic identity for the city of Porto in Portugal, one visual symbol wasn’t enough. Porto-based design firm, White Studio, brainstormed what made Porto memorable and unique, and asked people on the street how they viewed the city. No two answers were alike. White Studio concluded, “We felt we needed to give each citizen their own Porto. We needed to show all of the cities that exist in this one territory….It became clear to us that Porto needed to be much more than a single icon, much more than a single logo. It needed complexity. It needed life. It needed stories. It needed personality.”
The designers also needed a way to create a single unified look that would serve as Porto’s one graphic identity. The answer came in the decorative blue ceramic tiles seen throughout the city for centuries. The line drawings and illustrations on the tiles depicted visual stories about Porto’s history, landmarks, and natural surroundings. That inspired White Studio to create 70 pictograms that represented Porto and its people. The pictograms were designed to fit on a grid that could be combined into a network of images or used individually. The logotype itself is a simple blue sans serif against a white background within a blue boxed border. The beauty of this visual system is that it allows elements to be changed out frequently and still be recognizable as Porto’s graphic identity. It works.
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Japanese graphic designer Masaaki Hiromura has made pictograms an integral part of the kanji characters he created for Tokyo’s Kitasenjyu Marui department store to come up with food words that can be understood in any language. The silhouette of the food appropriately replaces a stroke in the word so it can be read as text. Although Hiromura was probably focused on devising a witty and graphically interesting way to communicate to multinational customers who frequent the store, this display seems like the reverse of how written languages began in many ancient cultures. Japanese and Chinese characters started as pictographs, ideographic symbols describing objects and actions. Over time, these characters became less pictographic and ideographic and more visually abstract. What’s amusing about these pictogram characters is that we’ve come full circle.
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What does it feel like to be a stranger in a foreign land? If you could communicate in the simplest, clearest language, what do you want others to know about you? Established in Berlin by two women from Argentina – one an artist, the other a journalist, Migrantas is a collective project that helps immigrants in Germany give voice to their concerns.
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