Trains, travel and type: Tokyo’s railway alphabet

Published:  June 29, 2014
Lucy Waddington

Representing one of the most efficient yet astonishingly complex public transport systems in the world, the Tokyo railway map can seem like a confusing mess of colour-coded lines, symbols and stations, to the infrequent traveller. However, regular commuters celebrate the comprehensive collection of connections. To Tokyo-based designer, Fuyuki Hashizume, these joins and links were the inspiration for an artisinal metropolitan typeface.

By isolating small groups of conjoined patterns, graphic forms were extracted and used to create the Rail Line Alphabet. Wanting to combine “humanism and minimalism”, Hashizume aspired to communicate the dual presence that inhabits every city — regimented industrialisation and imperfect human connection. This duality was also captured by the final printed publication, with accordion pages alluding to a ubiquitous binding link, and a cover with “a hard image in black and white” and a “soft body” composed of “gentle-textured paper.”

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Each letter in the series captures existing intersections, referencing a system that was found or discovered rather than created. Much like travelling or commuting, this acts as an exploration of connections that already exist but are uncovered in unique patterns. The collection is available as a hardcover book here, or as a poster here, directly from the designer.

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