Just asTrajan signifies the Roman Empire, Broadway signifies Art Deco. Thetypeface—designed by Morris Fuller Benton for American TypeFounders in 1927—is authentic, but it has become a cliché, used bynumerous landlords to tart up their Art Deco–era buildings. This mindlessapproach to signage is now being challenged. The Empire State Buildingis undergoing a major renovation, and as part of that makeover, Broadwaywill exit stage left. Designer Laura Varacchi, of the New York–basedfirm Two Twelve Associates, which is handling the signage and wayfindingfor the lobby renovation, searched for an alternative to the ubiquitousBroadway before asking Schwartzco Inc. to design a custom font for theiconic skyscraper. The handsome result is a pair of proprietary fontsderived from metal lettering used in the building’s lobby muraland in the Empire State Craftsmanship Awards plaque down the hallhonoring the top worker in each of the various buildingtrades.
Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes, the designers of theEmpire State Building font family, balanced a reverence for history withan 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 textson signs, created a condensed variant. Not only does Empire StateBuilding meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act,but it has also been approved by the New York City LandmarksPreservation Commission. A star is born. PAUL SHAW