In-use: FF Unit in action at the Aviva Stadium
Aviva Stadium’s signage system is set in FontFont’s FF Unit typeface, designed by Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz. Aviva Stadium hosts football and rugby matches, and is also a venue for concerts and other activities. Located in Dublin, Ireland, the stadium opened in 2010 and was designed by Populous in association with Scott Tallon Walker. The signage was designed by Populous Activate. We spoke with Alex Dale, a Senior Graphic Designer in their London office, to get more details about the project.
‘Before anything else, I wanted to use something that was inherently well-crafted’, Dale told us. ‘I wanted to avoid the safe signage choices, and select something a little more unusual and characterful. A unique building deserved a unique typeface. Overall, FF Unit lends itself to alphanumeric information systems – where numerals and letters are seen in isolation – for several reasons:
‘The medium weight is the ideal boldness to reverse out of a dark background, while having all the other weights is useful for things like maps, where you need to communicate lots of different levels of information .
‘The default overall fit (or letterspacing) works ‘right out of the box’, in that it's relatively loose compared to some other fonts. A pet peeve of mine is typography on signage set too tight, or not attended to at all.
‘The capitals are recognisable in isolation, which was really useful when it came to labelling the entrances. For instance, the ‘I’ has serifs top and bottom that disambiguate it from a ‘1’ or an ‘l’. Maybe not critical to the success of the system as a whole – people will find their door, eventually – but looking after these things communicates a broader concern for clarity and unambiguity. People pick up on these things and feel looked after.
‘The typeface includes gorgeous numerals, with tabular versions, which are ideal for setting number-heavy information.
‘The alternate glyphs, which we used on the prohibited items signage, let us set nice big, heavy, imposing titles quite tightly, like a proper newspaper headline.
‘FF Unit has arrows for all the weights, built right in! A godsend for directional information.
‘The characters are fairly tall and narrow, which suited the tall, narrow proportions of the signs. We wanted to minimise the footprint of the signs themselves, because pedestrian space is always at a premium in these kind of environments, while still being readable from a good distance.’
FF Unit is the grown-up, no-nonsense sister of Spiekermann’s FF Meta typeface. FF Unit has been extended with two companion families: FF Unit Slab and FF Unit Rounded. Spiekermann himself is no stranger to signage systems. During the early-1990s, he designed the reunified Berlin’s transit system signage, which uses the FF Transit typeface. FF Info was created for a redesign at the airport in Düsseldorf.