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Toronto Subway: A Love Story
Toronto Subway: A Love Story

DOMINION MODERN is proud to announce the opening of the first exhibit on the typeface, “Toronto Subway”.

This is the story of a man, a subway and the typeface that brought them together in a five year long love affair that would climax in the rebirth of a long lost typeface. A typeface that would become known as, “Toronto Subway”.

Romantic Traffic by The Spoons

Type and graphic designer, David Vereschagin was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. His journey in type began at his local library and led to the Visual Communication Design programme at the University of Alberta. Vereschagin moved to Toronto in the 1980’s and involved himself in gay activism, first working for the newspaper, The Body Politic and Xtra magazine where he designed the magazine’s logo.

In 1988 his design company, Quadrat Communications was launched. In 1992 he began designing type in what was the new frontier of digital type. “Clear Prairie Dawn”, his first typeface was based on his own handwriting and spoke to his roots in the west and interest in humanist typefaces.

In 1999 Vereschagin began trying to resurrect the typeface used in the Toronto subway system. In his own words, “I was going to rescue the Toronto subway typeface, essentially in typographical terms do a revival to ensure its continued existence.”

“Toronto Subway” as it became known was a totally unique sans serif geometric typeface. Vereschagin took it upon himself to do a five year long "restoration" in what became an archaelogical research project that methodically reconstructed the “lost” typeface.

The typeface "Toronto Subway" was first used in the book, Mean City: From Architecture to Design, How Toronto Went Boom! by John Martins-Manteiga, published by Dominion Modern and designed by Vereschagin's former design partner, Linda Gustafson of Counterpunch.

“Toronto Subway”, the now ubiquitous typeface is now even used by the Toronto Transit Commission.

The Process: The most direct process was to take rubbings of the sandblasted letters on the tiles of the subway platforms. Vereschagin took large sheets of paper and with a “soft-broad pencil and I would rub over the letter forms, to get a tracing of what the letter forms were.”

David began to amass the complete alphabet bit by bit. When characters were to far away to hand-rub, he used photography to document them. He spent, “the longest time looking for a Zed.” Finding it finally in a way-finding sign, “so there it was, there was my Zed! That was the last bit of the puzzle I needed.”

David identified all the pieces of punctuation he could find and determined that there was no lowercase. He also determined that the numerals were “ripped off from Futura, they were exact duplicates.”

David struggled with the question of whether he should do a lowercase, because the original subway typeface was designed solely as an uppercase. David wanted to go beyond just reviving an historical typeface and make a “useful set of typefaces…keeping in the spirit of the principals I had discovered while exploring the rubbings and my photographs.”

What David discovered was that the Toronto Subway while completely unique, was quite naïve as a typeface. “It was as if it had been designed by an engineer and not a typographer.”

David Vereschagin believes that the few things that give Toronto character is the Toronto subway lettering and to see that falling into disuse and being absolutely eradicated in the Toronto subway was really sad.”

David Vereschagin’s goliath journey was a challenge he took upon himself. There are very few cultural mavericks, but Vereschagen story with a long lost font is an evocative and remarkable love story, tenderly documented, digitally remastered and respectifully revived. Today Vereschagen’s typeface, “Toronto Subway” is available to be used just like other commonly found typefaces like Helvetica and Gill Sans, and that is due to one single man who took a historical typeface and made it available to the public.

230 Richmond Street East (side entrance)
April 7, 2011 – July 16, 2011
Monday-Friday: 9am-9pm
Saturday: 10am-5pm

Romantic Traffic by The Spoons