Studio Visit

Posted By


Underground Signs - Feature


A few months back while flipping through a Time Out NY magazine, I came across a little feature on a company called 'Underground Signs'.  There was an image of an MTA sign in someone's home and a little blurb.  It immediately grabbed my attention and I thought WOW, what a good idea.  It was only a few weeks before (after seeing an abnormally small MTA sign on 116th st.) that I thought it would be awesome to get a mini Only logo sign made.. I remembered to check out our their website soon after, which is really cool and fits the MTA theme perfectly.

So a few months went by, Agenda trade show was coming up and we needed a sign.  I of course thought of getting the custom logo subway sign made which fits our brand image perfectly.  I contacted Trevor MacDermid, the creator and owner of the company about my project. I was pleasantly surprised that he not only knew of Only, he told me he had recently seen someone wearing a tee near Union Square.  He's a super nice guy and was ready to take on our custom project.

A little after a week later I got the message that our sign was ready for pickup! So we headed out to the Brooklyn Navy Yards where the studio is located.  It was great to check out the studio, meet and talk with Trevor, and learn a bit about the sign building process!

(Rolls of heavy duty colored vinyl used for various subway lines.)

ONLY: Where did you get the idea to make a replica subway sign? What made you decide to start Underground Signs the company?  Was it your immediate goal to get licensed by the MTA? What's your goal with Underground Signs?

Trevor: Underground signs began by connecting two simple things: We love the handsome uniformity of the NYC train stations; and we also love the spirit of customization and making things with our hands. We realized it could be a great challenge: could we make a dead-ringer? but also a great and very sleek form of art: part personalization, part style guide. That it might work as a business came later. I sold a lot of lemonade as a kid, and this wasn't much different: you make a starter batch, set up a little stand, and see who's interested. People got interested! And then so did the MTA...

While not a for-profit corporation, the MTA is a major business with a recognizable brand.  And it's a brand they're right to protect.  They also have an extensive licensing program, which you see in effect everywhere, in subway token cufflinks and map umbrellas and so forth.  We started small, thinking we could just lay beneath the radar--the name Underground Signs is a nod to that--but, well, we drew some attention, and that drew theirs. Forming an agreement like the one we have is a nuanced process, but they were great and it's been a fantastic relationship.  

About half of our customers reside in the city and half live out.  And about half the signs we make come from real station names, like Grand Central or 86 Street; and half are total inventions, like people's names, or the street where they live, wherever.  It's a delight to make customers' ideas become real in those crisp, elegant letters--the design standards that Vignelli and Noorda created in the '60s never fail!  And so, in broad brush strokes, that's our goal: to bring joy.  More practically, our goal is to let people who love this city - and have a personal relationship with it - bring it into their own environment and make it their own.  So it’s as if the city will make a stop where you live.  

Our new company sign.

Be sure to check out the Underground Signs blog -

Directions to the office.

Signs ready for shipping.

Inside the MTA's sign making building.

Sign in action.

Hooked yet? It's pretty simple, these signs make a great apartment or office piece!  An extensive list of actual subway stops can be ordered, as well as the customization option.

In promotion of the ONLY Underground Signs feature, they are offering 15% off any signs purchased. Use code "ONLY" during checkout or mention the offer with phone orders.