Public transportation becomes a symbol of the city
Following the London Olympics on TV (NBC coverage sucks), web, social media, etc., I was struck by how public transportation systems come to define their cities. Not only in the substance of it, i.e. by moving a substantial portion of the citizens and visitors around the city, but also graphically. The London Underground circular logo has become a symbol for all things London.
The cable car of San Francisco is not only an old-worldly tourist draw, but becomes the packaging for chocolates.
Icons of transit systems become cultural currency. The iconic Paris Metropolitan entrance arch is seen as an appropriate gift to Montreal as it builds its own subway - also rubber tyred like the Paris system - to establish francophone solidarity. Which, of course, does not stop someone from borrowing the theme to use in a cocktail menu.
Closer home, in NYC, the simple Helvetica letters / numbers contained in - usually circular - medallion, becomes synonymous not just with the subway but with the entire city. When faraway design studios in Tokyo or southern California are trying to create the “New York look”, they fall back on subway-style lettering.
The mixing of graphic metaphors, in the case of NYC, most struck me in the packaging design of the condoms distributed free by the City. There is something fundamentally contradictory, IMHO, about a prophylactic that withholds as opposed to a subway train that speeds away. Don’t you think?
The final image on this post is from my hometown Delhi. Where the Metro is already a huge presence, but the passage of time that is needed for the graphics to be ingrained has not transpired. Here too, with a great deal of humor, is an appropriation of the logo of the organization, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, to indicate that all is not well with its construction. It’s from around the time that a couple of sections of elevated track collapsed during construction.