Los Angeles Metro


Metro Design Studio

Practice Area


Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority


Project Vision

After spending decades and billions of dollars developing a commuter bus and light rail system for the sprawling Los Angeles region, the Metropolitan Transit Authority needed to create a comprehensive identity system for it.

Metro assembled an in-house design team to brand the system and develop signage and wayfinding guidelines, identification for rail and bus stations, fleet graphics, image advertising, web site, timetables and maps, bus passes and brochures, merchandising and other materials.

Signage ranges from grand pylons identifying Metro rail stations to blades for 18,000 bus stops. New station markers are modern stainless steel wedges with push-through lettering, topped by the distinctive Metro logo. Designers maximized the signs’ visibility by using innovative materials, including perforated vinyl and plexiglass panels that allow customers to see a positive (black) logo by day and a negative (white) logo by night.

Metro’s bold new fleet design (which The New York Times calls “sleek-with curb [and sex] appeal”) was developed to increase visibility on the street. The system’s former paint scheme was a generic white with costly custom decals, and difficult for customers to distinguish from a distance. Vibrant new colors were chosen to denote service: “California poppy” for Metro Local service, “rapid red” for Metro Rapid service, “business blue” for Metro Express commuter service, and “stylish silver” for Metro Rail and Metro Liner service.

Metro’s first comprehensive Signage Standards Manual was developed to integrate both bus and rail signage and wayfinding concepts. The standards address issues including accessibility and the existing architecture of the Metro system. The standards include a plan for the re-vitalization of existing environments and address future construction and extensions of the transit system.

Placemaking has also been part of the Metro design team’s work. The Metro Wilshire Customer Center, which spans the high-visibility corner at Wilshire and La Brea, was transformed from an institutional gray “bunker” into a visual landmark. Artist Jim Isermann’s eye-popping façade is inspired by the architectural vernacular of Southern California sun screens used to cosmetically “modernize” architecture in the 1950s and 60s. To add night-time presence, Metro Creative Services designed and incorporated neon signage into the façade.

To conceal a construction site for a facility linking two key lines of the Metro system, the team designed a unique mural that combines a typographic map of the San Fernando Valley with text describing the origins of street and neighborhood names and historical images of transit in the area. The 5,500-sq.-ft. mural works visually at both a distance as well as at a pedestrian level.

Other projects included station identifiers and a banner system promoting the Metro’s new fast-track Orange Line. Bold, colorful banners with engaging text were installed along the new line during the months leading up to and following its opening. The banners encouraged ridership and enhanced safety awareness for vehicles not accustomed to the street-level intersections.

Project Details
The scope of the graphic design and sign program is huge, and the jury unanimously commended the MTA for its ability to create a strong graphic brand and a world-class sign system. Every graphic element-color, typography, and color placement-was considered for its ability to communicate information concisely and consistently. All the hardware is durable and elegant. Local artists were commissioned to enhance MTA auxiliary buildings, and even temporary signs and construction fences carry the established color and typographic language in an engaging way. The result of this effort has inspired confidence in the minds of Los Angeles residents who, it is hoped, will continue to use rapid transit in greater numbers and leave their cars behind.
Juror 1
Design Team

Metro Creative Services: Neil Sadler (art director); Jorge Pardo (art and design director); Angelene Campuzano, Carolynne Clifford (production); Mike Barnes (signage and distribution manager)

Design Firm

Metro Design Studio


Jim Isermann, artist (dimensional panel, Metro Customer Center)


AAA Flag & Banner (banners); Artografx (display cases/signage); eleven12imaging (maps); LNI Custom Manufacturing (station signs, grand pylon signs, Customer Center signage); GP Color Imaging (street stories mural)