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RATP metro signs and identity

Contributed by Andreas Kofler on Sep 30th, 2020. Artwork published in .
    RATP metro signs and identity 1
    Source: https://typofonderie.com Typofonderie. License: All Rights Reserved.

    In 1996 the Autonomous Parisian Transportation Administration (RATP) adopted the custom typeface Parisine. The development of the typeface family was part of the general effort – with Yo Kaminagai as a head of design – to unify the sign system of the Parisian metro, bus and regional express network which until then made use of different typefaces. An initial choice to rely on Neue Helvetica created disarray due to the font’s variations and difficulties to include longer station names (e.g. “Iéna Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau”, as opposed to “Iéna”).

    Consequently, French type designer Jean François Porchez was commissioned to create a typeface that would be more “economical” in width. As described by Porchez in his Gazette, Parisine was:

    designed from Helvetica Bold, condensed at 90%. Parisine is intentionally more open to counteract the reduction of the areas of the counters due to condensing. Its forms are softer and more round, horizontal parts are slightly heavier, optically, to compensate for the verticality accentuated by the slight narrowness of Parisine.

    In August 2020 the Paris In collective raised awareness that the emblematic typography is threatened by the introduction of a different system used by Île-de-France Mobilités, the entity controlling the different transport companies of the Paris region. Their explicatory video warns of the beginning of what may be an increasing “contamination” of the standards.

    [Editor’s note: Parisine was introduced in RATP’s communications in a decentralized way, and the family grew with needs and applications; see comments.]

    Overview of the M4 metro line. Station names are set on an angle.
    Source: https://www.ratp.fr License: All Rights Reserved.

    Overview of the M4 metro line. Station names are set on an angle.

    Diagram of the metro, RER, bus, and tramway lines.
    Source: https://www.ratp.fr RATP. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Diagram of the metro, RER, bus, and tramway lines.

    Trilingual tourist map (2017) with info in French, English, and Spanish, designed by Be Dandy using Parisine’s narrow and compressed widths.
    Source: http://www.bedandy.fr Be Dandy. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Trilingual tourist map (2017) with info in French, English, and Spanish, designed by Be Dandy using Parisine’s narrow and compressed widths.

    RATP metro signs and identity 5
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Albert-Jan Pool. License: All Rights Reserved.
    RATP metro signs and identity 6
    Source: https://soundlandscapes.wordpress.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Strasbourg Saint-Denis station, July 2019.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com numéro six. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Strasbourg Saint-Denis station, July 2019.

    July 16, 2018. One day after France won the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match, six metro stations were temporarily renamed. the Saint-Paul station was changed into Saint-Paul Pogba, and the Champs-Élysees station honoured the coach of the French football team, Didier Deschamps.
    Source: https://twitter.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    July 16, 2018. One day after France won the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match, six metro stations were temporarily renamed. the Saint-Paul station was changed into Saint-Paul Pogba, and the Champs-Élysees station honoured the coach of the French football team, Didier Deschamps.

    Sign post outside Pompadour station, 2019.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Cheng-en Cheng. License: CC BY-SA.

    Sign post outside Pompadour station, 2019.

    April 2020. Entry of the Plaisance Hôpital Saint-Joseph station, showing both Parisine and the famous art nouveau Paris metro signs.
    Source: https://twitter.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    April 2020. Entry of the Plaisance Hôpital Saint-Joseph station, showing both Parisine and the famous art nouveau Paris metro signs.

    RATP website, using Parisine and the same color scheme as used for the RATP signage.
    Source: https://www.ratp.fr License: All Rights Reserved.

    RATP website, using Parisine and the same color scheme as used for the RATP signage.

    Saint-Paul station fridge magnet, from the RATP merchandise shop.
    Source: https://ratplaligne.fr RATP la ligne. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Saint-Paul station fridge magnet, from the RATP merchandise shop.

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    1 Comment on “RATP metro signs and identity”

    1. While looking for images of RATP signage we came across communication and signs using different versions of Parisine, like the sign above using Parisine Plus, photographed by Pery Tak. While the sign may not be using the correct Parisine family, the type collection and its use in RATP signs and communications grew organically over time.

      In an exchange with Jean François Porchez, the designer of Parisine, he explained how the Parisine collection grew based on needs since its first release:

      “The idea for Parisine appeared in summer 1995 and started to be implemented in 1996. In the following years, ads used Parisine as a homage to the signage and its use in the Paris métro. Maps and diagrams started to be set in Parisine too. Each time from the first day back in mid 1995, it was a decentralized decision based on needs and usages.

      A few years later, the RATP wanted to revise their identity and communication guidelines. So, they decided to remove Gill Sans and replace everything with Parisine. But Gill Sans features a very small x-height, so switching wasn’t so easy in many situations. This is how Parisine Office was designed, to keep similar widths as in Gill Sans.”

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