Transport New is K-Type’s redrawing of the typeface created for British road signs. It includes not only the familiar Heavy and Medium weights, but also the previously unreleased Light weight font envisaged for back-lit signage but never actually applied.
Originally designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert beginning in 1957 and first published on the Preston bypass in 1958, the starting point for the typeface was Akzidenz Grotesk, a prototype for neo-grotesques which also provided a model for Helvetica and Univers. Jock Kinneir wasn’t initially asked to design a special typeface, but he and Margaret Calvert didn’t consider the German face to be wholly suitable and so developed their own letterforms with reduced stroke contrast. They also introduced some features borrowed from Johnston’s Underground type – the curled foot of the lowercase L and the high, pointed middle of the uppercase M for instance. Designed to eliminate confusion between characters and increase legibility, they also help to give Transport a British flavour.
The Transport face has subtle eccentricities which add to its distinctiveness, and drawing the New version involved walking a tightrope between impertinently eliminating awkwardness and maintaining idiosyncrasy. Transport New wouldn’t be the first typeface to have overstepped the mark and gone bland.
So, K-Type’s version, first released in 2008, includes cheeky but delicate refinements – shortening the uncomfortably close terminals of characters such as 5, 6, C, G, and e, giving the S and s a more upright aspect and tucking in their protruding lower terminals, narrowing overly wide glyphs like the number 4, and slightly opening up some claustrophobic counters. The question mark is redesigned, and parentheses have been given some stroke contrast. The x height is edged fractionally even taller.
The Heavy font is actually more of a Bold, and the Light is pretty much a regular weight, but the original nomenclature has been retained for old times’ sake.
Version 3.0 of Transport New features significant improvements including numerous outline and spacing refinements, and a full complement of Latin Extended-A characters. Also, to align Transport New with the 2015 release of Motorway, the other typeface used for UK road signage, italic fonts for all three weights have been added.