Empire State Building

Just as
Trajan signifies the Roman Empire, Broadway signifies Art Deco. The
typeface—designed by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type
Founders in 1927—is authentic, but it has become a cliché, used by
numerous landlords to tart up their Art Deco–era buildings. This mindless
approach to signage is now being challenged. The Empire State Building
is undergoing a major renovation, and as part of that makeover, Broadway
will exit stage left. Designer Laura Varacchi, of the New York–based
firm Two Twelve Associates, which is handling the signage and wayfinding
for the lobby renovation, searched for an alternative to the ubiquitous
Broadway before asking Schwartzco Inc. to design a custom font for the
iconic skyscraper. The handsome result is a pair of proprietary fonts
derived from metal lettering used in the building’s lobby mural
and in the Empire State Craftsmanship Awards plaque down the hall
honoring the top worker in each of the various building
trades.

Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes, the designers of the
Empire State Building font family, balanced a reverence for history with
an understanding of the demands imposed on a face intended for signage.
They harmonized the Deco-style sans-serif capitals of the plaque,
concocted a complementary lowercase, and then, to accommodate long texts
on signs, created a condensed variant. Not only does Empire State
Building meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
but it has also been approved by the New York City Landmarks
Preservation Commission. A star is born. PAUL SHAW



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