Network Family

(Network Sans, Network Geo, Network Neo)
The Network family of typefaces started out as part of an identity project for the state of Victoria, Australia's public transport network that would unite it's many services and contracted suppliers with a singular voice, making it easier for passengers to navigate the 'brand soup' that previously existed.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) initially trailed many existing type families—with DIN Rounded becoming the standard for safety and urgent, targeted communication for a while—but all were eventually deemed not specific enough to the needs of the state's nebulous transport network and the places they would inhabit.

An own-able typeface that had a flavour of the state was required. So then we hunted for a foundry and or mastering studio that could lend us the skills we couldn't access within our in-house team. This was the mid 2010s and the city of Melbourne was about to welcome a raft of super skilled and talented typeface designers such as Wei Huang, Vincent Chan and Dennis Grauel. But it was too 'early days' for is to take advantage of this.

So we looked overseas, gathering quotes, asking about adapting existing designer, approaching mastering studios but the Australian dollar was against us. It was an impossible sell to ask state coffers to send the amount of public money required outside of the state—let alone the country.

In the meantime, as part of the in-house team at Public Transport Victoria, we had been developing our own unique character set and testing it out in various real world applications. Out references came from what we saw as contemporaries in the field but we also looked to early station signage and legacy elements such as the had-painted 'Do Not Spit.' signs familiar to commuters at Flinders Street Station in the centre of the city.

As these design applications (such as signage, wayfinding and timetable design) developed and type design software was made available to the team, the decision to take the design, build and release of a new type family for PTV completely in-house was made. Aside from a glitch when an external freelance designer from out-of-state was brought in to help master and build out our character sets and ended up using the assignment as a crash course in type design production which they then 'borrowed' to build a series of high visible typeface projects away from PTV—the project was completed by PTV's in-house team with Dean Butler and Michael Bojkowski leading the design direction and development of what would become known as 'Network Sans'.

It's coming up to a decade now since an early release of Network Sans first appeared on platform flags at Footscray station in Melbourne's inner west. Since then it was proliferated throughout the state being employed on signage—both static and digital, in promotional campaigns and posters, in videos and adverts—signifying both greater Melbourne and regional services. It is also a keystone within official city wayfinding schemes for both the City of Melbourne and City of Stonnington, appearing on maps and street signs guiding people around these places.

In early 2023, two extensions to the Network family were released. Network Geo has been tailored to station signage throughout the network considering new lines and stations being developed and opening around the city and state. Network Neo is aimed more at campaign material and identity work around supporting construction projects in the city. Both Geo & Neo play with rounder, more open and starkly geometric characters that complement existing applications whilst giving designers a new set of widths and alternative characters to work with.

With expanded character widths comes the opportunity for condensed versions as well which would open up a vast range of widths for use within the Network family further cementing its longevity within a place that puts existing styles through their paces in many often surprising ways every day.