transport design [lecture 8 + reading]

apr 14 09

[guest lecturer Søren Arildskov Rasmussen]

the first face that any city shows a visitor will probably be its public transportation system.

that said, when i first arrived in copenhagen and i was trying to figure out how to ride the metro from copenhagen airport to DR Byen for orientation, imagine my bafflement when i saw this:


wait, that's it? there's only two lines? (one and a half, really...) where is the whole map? shoot, i have to find the full brochure...

it wasn’t until about a week later when i realized that there also existed the S-TOG [tog=train] which services a much larger area and is a completely different system from the metro.  the S-Tog map looks like this:

ah, that's much better.

(in my colorful confusion) ah, that's much better.

after riding public transportation in a plethora of cities this term (barcelona, stockholm, paris, geneva, istanbul, milan), i wholeheartedly agree that copenhagen’s metro is definitely among the world’s best.  i find that one thing that copenhagen does extremely well is inviting the rider to sit down.  the beautiful/ergonomic-looking blue plush seats simply call to my derriere, and the differentiated sections for sitters/standers/bikes/baby carriages are also very effective on the S-tog.  i also have great appreciation for the digital dot sign format that tells you the relative amount of time it will take to reach the next stop (‘naeste station’).


i might also add that the DSB’s choice of font and overall signage is quite stellar.  it was one of the first danish companies to use graphic design as a tool for branding!  and check out that fabulous ‘g.’


some interesting tidbits i picked up from Typophile:

‘In 1997 Danish design agency Kontrapunkt designed the new typeface ‘Via’ for the Danish State Railways to replace the previous ‘British Rail’ typeface who looks like Helvetica Bold. — Claus Eggers Sørensen: Danish Humanist Modernism at

‘Bo Linnemann [of Kontrapunkt] professed being influenced by Knud Engelhardt, the famous Danish architect who lived about 100 years ago. The guiding principle in all of Linnemann’s work, accordingly, is legibility. Engelhardt used to open up glyphs such as A, M and N. Linnemann’s face VIA for the Danish Railways (DSB) has inner spaces bigger than those of Helvetica, which was the face used previously by DSB. VIA’s identity is in the lower case g, a neat feature found in more and more corporate typefaces these days. — Luc Devroye: Report of ATypI 2001

‘At this year’s Typo Berlin, Erik Spiekermann named this ultra-open ‘g’ the Danish g. In fact, this style seems to be quite popular in Denmark – and Sweden. Thomas aka Formschub compiled some of his favourite ‘g’s in a fabulous ‘g-trospektive’, with most of the fonts actually coming from Scandinavia.’


even the design of the 10-ride clip cards ('klippekort') make me smile

i think my only grievance towards copenhagen’s public transportation is the lack of shelter during winter months.  from january through beginning of march, i was forced to do a miserable sort of freeze-dance at every bus/train stop, and thought lovingly of boston’s underground T.  i understand that maintenance is an issue with interior spaces, but could some sort of sustainable/rechargable non-gas heat lamp be implemented [perhaps charged by piezoelectricity from foot traffic at busy stations, similar to japan’s strategies]?  the danish winter would be just a teensy bit more bearable.


One Response to “transport design [lecture 8 + reading]”

  1. 1 Kristoffer Of Denmark

    I just like to add two things to this, first, the metro, its a new project, and the first 2 metro lines (1,5 as you said:P) was a kind of a test, they are expanding!

    here’s a map of new new city-ring: (on my account)

    note that they have planned whole 3 more lines already! I hope for the best:)

    the second is a bit small, but just to point out how much i like the s-tog (train, suburban surface lines) which is owned by DSB, which is the Danish State lines (Danske Stats Baner). they have installed free Wlan in every s-train! and not some complex system, first time, create an account (just user name and password, an email to cantact if needed) then you don’t have to log on again, your automatically signed in when you connect!

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