Drawings for New Johnston from 1979 at the London Transport Museum’s design exhibition room. Note the lowercase g.

That London Tube typeface? Look again

I can’t believe it’s not Johnston!

6 min readFeb 28, 2018


It’s a point of embarrassment to me that I only learned a few days ago one of the oddities to do with Johnston, the typeface used by Transport for London (TfL) since it was designed in 1916. TfL has had many names over the years — it was then known as “the Underground Group” — but the face has remained constant. It’s what you associate with the Tube, with London buses, and all the maps and signage and other transit tied together in Greater London.

Created by Edward Johnston under the direction of transit visionary Frank Pick, the type was intended to be crisp, legible, and unpretentious, and work in a large variety of circumstances. It’s typically paired with the “bullseye” or “roundel” — the red circle with a slim rectangle bisecting it horizontally.

I wrote a little about Johnston, sometimes called Johnston Sans or even Johnston’s Railway Type, in London Kerning. But it’s only after having spent a couple hours at the London Transport Museum weeks ago, which devotes a room to the typeface and design, and having researched and written the chapter for my book that I discovered the bizarre truth to the face.

Not all Johnston is Johnston.

Now, I’m not talking about Gill Sans. Eric Gill did work as an assistant to Johnston on…



Glenn Fleishman

Technology journalist, editor, letterpress printer, and two-time Jeopardy! champion. I seem to know everyone #glenning