Admired by type designers, depended on by European backpackers, and spotted on any Tube ephemera, Edward Johnston’s 1916 sans serif for the London Underground is a legend. As popular as it is, however, its ubiquity has largely been relegated to Britain’s underbelly due to one critical shortcoming: the lack of a full text family to accompany its roman face. Not so anymore. In September 2007, P22 announced it had developed P22 Underground Pro, an expanded version of Underground. The resulting font grows functionally and globally, all while still directing its traffic and designers with the same utilitarian beauty and perfect circle letter Os. The addition of six new faces expands its services in bold, italic, and small caps, while the translation to Greek and Cyrillic versions assures that itinerant polyglots will arrive at their international hotspots in Minsk, St Petersburg, Athens, and islands in between.
Looking at Underground today, one wonders whether Gill Sans—intended by designer Eric Gill to be an improvement on Underground—is much more commonly used only because Johnston’s type was never expanded into a full family. Will Underground Pro’s release win some converts and pull into the lead? STEPHEN COLES and ANNA MALSBERGER