Green and friendly is the new face of New York City’s Central Park, and FB Titling Gothic is its new typeface. Following the rebranding guidelines set by McGarryBowen earlier this year, the Central Park Conservancy has created a welcoming and effective sign system for the 843-acre urban oasis.
According to David W. Dunlap at the New York Times City Room blog, over 1,500 signs have sprouted around the park this summer, and not all are the prohibitive “don’t do this” warning we’re used to seeing in a city park. This is all part of the conservancy’s goal to make the park a more rich and welcoming experience.
Of course, we commend the typeface choice. Derived from a style of type that graced the head-turning posters of America’s industrial age, FB Titling Gothic demands attention, but “not with the authoritarian insistence of something like Helvetica,” says David Berlow, who spent more than ten years shaping the 49-style family. “I’m not one of those Helvetica-haters as some are, but I’m sure many people will agree that this is a more apt selection for a project like this.”
Berlow went on to describe his delight upon finding his typeface used for the park:
“To see so many styles used in this signage project, where all manner of message is worthy of proper typeface selection, is very satisfying to me, as it would be to anyone who thinks about type.”
Whatever your typographic persuasion, there’s no doubt the new signs are an improvement over the older design, set in a wispy Baskerville, a typeface better suited for fine press book printing than at-a-glance signage. The conservancy also made a wise choice in using upper- and lowercase, which has proven to be more immediately readable than all caps.
FB Titling Gothic offers a lot of flexibility, with seven widths, each in seven weights, to choose from. Promotional and lamp-post banners take advantage of the more narrow styles, but the middle-of-the-spectrum Compressed Medium does most of the heavy lifting. The layout of these signs emphasizes simplicity and clarity, letting the type deliver the message as large as possible without crowding the sign edge or the linespacing.
The success of this design is even more apparent on the rare occasion that the guidelines aren’t followed:
We sent our Nick Sherman out for an afternoon in the park to document just how beautifully the signs do their job. His shots accompany this post, and there are more in the slideshow below. You can also see FB Titling Gothic at work on the Central Park Conservancy website.