Friday, February 15, 2008

Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Seattle Streetcar

OK, trolleys, actually. But fans of the Simpsons will understand the subject head and the reference to zealous urban infrastructure plans.

Trolleys are back. Baltimore is in hot debate over a system on its main thoroughfare, Charles Street, and it's not alone. Cities are financing trolleys again. Seattle opened its Seattle Streetcar two months ago. The $52.1 million, 2.6-mile (round trip) system is the first new rail project there in 25 years. Proponents say it mitigates rush hour traffic and serves to connect other forms of mass transit. Critics say it's got a thinly-veiled developer-driven motive aimed to give more traffic to an emerging South Lake Union district project owned by Microsoft gagillionaire Paul Allen. I'll be curious to hear from the readers out there what they think about it...?

Seattle Streetcar Route Map

Another interesting aspect of any mass transit project is the graphic design and typography used to brand it. The Seattle Streetcar has an orange color pallet and they've added images to distinguish various forms of transit in the city:

The top image represents the streetcar. The second image is the ferry. The third is a taxi. The fourth is other forms of rail (monorail, light rail, and Amtrak). You can download and print your own Seattle Streetcar Wallpaper from their website by clicking here, clicking on the "newsroom tab" and then scrolling down to the bottom of the webpage.

Will the Seattle Streetcar typography and design become iconic?

The sans serif typeface of the now famous London Underground logo was designed by Edward Johnston in 1916.

The Art Nouveau entrances of the Paris Metro were designed at the turn of the last century by architect Hector Guimard.

German designer Otl Aicher created the Rotis font in 1988 and it has been used in transit systems from Singapore to Spain. He designed the branding package for Lufthansa Airlines, pictured above. He is also well known for his pictograms, which he designed for the Munich Olympics, as well as for transit hubs like metros and airports. Aicher developed hundreds of pictograms during his career. If this kind of thing interests you, definitely pick up Markus Rathgreb's monograph on Aicher.

Otl Aicher pictogram