I love type on LED displays. The hours spent in the Delhi Metro are often bearable only because I stare at the information displays non-stop. I’ve been (unsuccessfully) planning to document all the type on these displays since my very first Metro ride four years ago. Sitting in the Metro last Friday, I decided I had procrastinated enough. And that brings us to Type in Transit, a multi-part series on pixel type in the Metro and in the new DTC buses in Delhi.
What you’ll find here is a brief description of what to expect from the Delhi Metro displays, and a glimpse into the planned process of documentation. As the documentation begins to grow, I’ll follow up this post with more images, comparisons between the designs, critiques and finally a specimen of all the letters used. I can see myself spending many-a-Sunday afternoons sitting in the Metro or on a bus-stop with a drawing pad, and honestly I cannot wait!
¶ The Delhi Metro
Three Generations of Coaches = Three Kinds of Type If you’re a regular traveler in the Delhi Metro, you would’ve noticed the three generations of coaches that are currently in use. If you’re a typophile, you would’ve noticed that all three use different type in their information displays.
The oldest coaches use a sans serif design. In the next set of coaches, the design continues to be sans serif, albeit it is a different one. To compensate for the lack of space for descenders, this second design uses some unicase characters. This is, perhaps, its most distinguishing feature from its predecessor. The newest coaches break away from the sans serif design completely, and instead use a slab serif.
On the Platform The information displays on the platforms use a completely different set of letters. Though they are also sans serif, they are of a heavier weight.
Photographs and Drawings What makes this documentation difficult are the facts that the displays are dynamic and photography is prohibited in the trains and the stations. Once, I asked a security guard if it was alright to click some photographs of the display in the train and he agreed, another time the guard on duty declined. This means that all the documentation will be in the form of low-resolution photographs clicked by my phone camera or quickly drawn sketches. Unfortunately, neither will be in the quality or form that can be used as it is.
Type in Transit Typefaces To keep things organized and shareable, I’m subverting Fontstruct and creating a typeface which has one Metro message per glyph. This work-in-progress can be viewed here. When I move to the DTC bus displays, I’ll create another one.