When it burst onto the scene in 1930, the Metro typeface family was widely regarded as a trendsetter. The hand-crafted, calligraphic nature of the typeface, with its signature “smiling e,” immediately set it apart from other popular typefaces of the day. Even now it’s heralded as one of the first humanist sans serif designs – American creator William A. Dwiggins’ counterpoint to European sans serif faces such as the Futura and Kabel families.
As a book designer, illustrator and commercial artist, Dwiggins was more of a generalist than a classically-trained type designer, and an element of naiveté is apparent in the original Metro drawings remains as part of the type family’s charm.
Metro—more specifically its successor, the Metro No. 2 family—was used heavily into the 1950s by newspapers and magazines but gradually fell out of fashion.
For decades, the production drawings remained locked away in the Museum of Printing in North Andover, Mass. – only 50 miles from where Dwiggins designed the Metro family – until the captivating characters were rediscovered. Monotype designer, Toshi Omagari, designed his digital re-envisioning of Metro based on these drawings. His design, Metro Nova, is an expanded family of seven weights and an extended character set that supports multiple languages.
Though based on an 80-year-old design, the Metro Nova family is fresh, approachable and tuned for any range of digital application. Dwiggins’ contributions to type and book design are part of an extensive permanent exhibit at the Boston Public Library, which features a mock-up of his studio and examples of his work, including other popular fonts such as the Electra and New Caledonia families. Click here to view Metro Nova images in this SlideShare presentation.