Johnston (or Johnston Sans) is a humanist sans-serif typeface designed by and named after Edward Johnston. The capitals of the typeface are based on Roman square capitals, and the lower-case on the humanistic minuscule, the handwriting in use in Italy in the fifteenth century. In this, it marked a break with the kinds of sans serif previously used, sometimes known as grotesque, which tended to have squarer shapes.
The typeface was commissioned in 1913 by Frank Pick, Commercial Manager of the London Electric Railway Company (also known as ‘The Underground Group’), as part of his plan to strengthen the company’s corporate identity. In 1933, The Underground Group became a major part of London Transport and the typeface was adopted for the complete network.
The font family was originally called Underground, it became known as Johnston’s Railway Type, and later simply Johnston. It comes with two weights, heavy and ordinary. Heavy contains only capital letters. A further change occurred in 2008 when Transport for London removed the serif from the numeral ‘1’ and also altered the ‘4’, in both cases reverting these to their original appearance.
The Johnston typeface was redesigned in 1979 by Eiichi Kono at Banks & Miles to produce New Johnston, the variant of the original font currently used by London Underground. The new font is slightly heavier or bolder than the original. The new family comes with Bold, Medium, Light weights. The new font replaced the old font.
International Typeface Corporation released a variant in 1999 called ITC Johnston, produced by British type designers Richard Dawson and Dave Farey. It originally included 3 font weights like New Johnston. However, it does not include the hooked 1 and uses side-pointed 4. In November 2002, the font was rereleased in OpenType format, which also expanded the font family to include italic fonts in all weights. Character set was expanded to support ISO Adobe 2 character set. OpenType features include alternates, case forms, small caps (romans only), old style figure. Separate small caps (romans only) and old style figure fonts were also released for each weight in TrueType and PostScript formats, for a total of 15 fonts.