Urban transportation identity system: Buenos Aires Underground

Un sistema de señalización visual que funciona como un instrumento de información, identidad y estimulación.

A visual signage system that works as an instrument of information, identity and stimulation.

The Buenos Aires underground signage was designed by Argentinean design firm, Diseño Shakespear, during separate stages ranging from 1995-2007. The visual identity successfully blends old-day prestige and functional aspects of modern life that are inherent to cities.

A new name
Following a series local surveys and focus groups studies that showed a need for a collective memory term, the name «Subte» (from subterráneo) was chosen. The idea to take on this colloquial name became the embryo of this project: Diseño Shakespear understood that, beyond the need for a new design and recovery of the old-day prestige, and beyond the name of the company that would eventually manage the service, this means of transportation needed to preserve its urban and social identity. The rescue of the «people’s voice» was fundamental, and its presence in collective memory has been formidable. Furthermore, local travellers had for many years used the colloquial term Subte and thus it seemed to be a natural choice to fit alongside the Tube in London, the Metro in Paris or the Subway in New York.

A strong identity
Given the actual physical environment and the socio-economic context in which public area design has taken place over the last few years, the Subte, as a mega-project, was very different from other works of the same stature previously tackled by Diseño Shakespear. The strong elements present in the Subway’s domestic landscape, and especially the widespread presence of advertising and the proliferation of stores challenged the team to find a strong visual precence for the project. According to Diseño Shakespear founder Ronald Shakespear, a sign is not just a panel with images, figures and letters. They are «active expressions of identity that go beyond just giving directions and solving basic circulation and communication problems.»

Signs are a set of elements that order traffic and configure the network’s identity. In urban environments, signs should be fully integrated to their surroundings and act like they have always been there. They should help build the identity of a place. So the proposal submitted by Diseño Shakespear was not only a sign program. On the contrary, the idea was to generate a communication channel that establishes the voice and tone of the issuer (the Subte) and presents it in a constant and predictable location. The aim was to prioritise the essential information and build a connection with the public. To create this strong voice, the team worked hard to create an institutional communication tool with the necessary strength and identity through scale, repetition and adequate location.

Connecting above and below
The design proposal established a permanent channel – a perpetual belt that «ties» the network together – placed 2.20 meters above the ground. This perpetual channel is called the «main border». Each subway line naturally has a border with the applicable historical color code. There are two levels of information in the main border. The upper level uses simple lines, circular shapes and bold colours that help the traveller memorise and identify the seven different transit lines. The lower or subsidiary level connects the subway line to above-ground landmarks and the related stations with consistent use of sans-serif typography, bold lines and colours. Sans-serif typography, Frutiger, was chosen to express all messages in the network, because of its sober, practical and robust character.

Mapping the subway
Ever since the creation of railways as a means of mass transportation, maps have been a concern and a challenge for railway engineers, managers and professional designers. Illustrious precedents such as the pioneer London Underground map (by Henry C. Beck), and the New York subway map (by Massimo Vignelli) have turned this particular piece of work into a design classic, a prototypical expression of the social function of design and a paradigm in terms of mass design and rationalist treatment of information.

The idea to represent the subway’s network horizontally came naturally. This graphic configuration used to express the «menu» of destinations and exchanges offers the public some substantial benefits in terms of perception, by establishing the names of stations and subway lines on the same level. On the other hand, four of the five lines are actually horizontal, and it is reasonably correct to conclude that, if Western audiences read horizontally, from the left to the right, the network’s map should be horizontal rather than vertical. Additionally, the map includes related urban landmarks from the world above to help users «read» the city and the subway line at the same time, adding geographic meaning to the subway.

– Client: Metrovías S.A.
– Designer: Diseño Shakespear
– Directors: Lorenzo, Juan and Ronald Shakespear
– Designers: Martina Mut, Gonzalo Strasser, Claudio Sarden, Eliana Testa and Adriana Cantore
– Public Relations: Joaquín Viramonte and Lucía Diaz
– Legal Advisors: Ing Victor Levy, Dr María Shakespear and Dr Juan Cerdá
– Contruction Advisor: Atlas Saic.
– Images: Juan Hitters and Hector Calderone, copyright: Diseño Shakespear

Source > http://www.icograda.org/resources/case_studies/articles2096.htm

More information >  www.shakespearweb.com

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