Fairway Market logos
The legendary New York grocer is rumored to close its stores after 87 years. Here’s how their typographic identity evolved over the last decade.
Founded in 1933, it expanded in the New York area in the 21st century, with 15 grocery stores plus 4 liquor stores in the tri-state area as of August 2018. The flagship store remains at Broadway and West 74th Street, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Their visual identity is not exactly consistent, and has seen several changes over the past few years.
Perhaps referencing the long history of the sign painter’s brush script in U.S. grocery signs, the logo used on the store shown above is in yellow caps from Dom Bold, horizontally stretched and with added drop shadow, against a green background. The casual unconnected brush script easily withstands some amount of stretching, in this case a little more than 120%.
The slogan “Like No Other Market” sometimes is rendered in a mechanically extended brush script, too. In the photo below, the font in use possibly is the lighter Dom Casual. Here, with less chunky letters and in title case, the distortion is more problematic – at least the e looks somewhat pained. Other signs use the similar Impress. The setting with lowercase letters is also more revealing of the typefaces’ age. (Dom Casual goes back to the early 1950s when ATF adopted a film face originally drawn by Pete Dombrezian for Photo-Lettering, Inc.; Impress is a digital version of Filmotype Prima which was first offered in 1955.) This may have been the motivation to replace the slogan typography with something more contemporary. The photo above shows “Like No Other Market” in Greg Thompson’s Agenda (1993), in all caps and without quote marks. The tapering red underline was maintained.
Apparently this update still didn’t look modern enough. The Fairway website shows the latest logo version, in white on black. It’s not a drastic redesign, but a cautious revision. Dom Bold had to make way for a more recent typeface from the same genre, Ahkio.
Designed by Mika Melvas, it was released in 2014 in five weights. Ahkio is slightly inclined, adding a welcome sense of movement to the wordmark. The Bold weight already had the right weight and width. Some changes were deemed necessary, though: the bar in F was raised and shortened – maybe to mitigate the near crash with the protruding A bar – and crosses the stem; and the leg of R curves forward. While the apex of A was cleaned up, the opposite approach was chosen for W, with offset strokes that emphasize the handmade look. The slogan underneath now is set in caps from another sans serif, Neutraface by Christian Schwartz. Both typefaces are used for the Fairway website, too. The newest logo has the most professional appeal, but also borders on the slick.
Until around 2012, Fairway used yet another logo version, in yellow caps on a blue background. It’s not clear to me if these letterforms are typographic or custom made. The closest typeface I’m aware of is McCullagh, which has a similar boldness and tall proportions, and shares three of its key characteristics: the high-waisted F, the asymmetrical W, and, most notably, the low-waisted R with a flat and vertically cut leg. The old Fairway logo looks like a sans-serif adaptation of McCullagh, but I can’t rule out that the similarities are just coincidental. This variant scores high in terms of uniqueness. On the other hand, it’s maybe too obviously rooted in the past. The red and black outlines and the gradient fill add to the nostalgic, sign-painterly charm.
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2 Comments on “Fairway Market logos”
After ambitiously spreading itself too thin, Fairway declared bankruptcy in 2016 and then received financing from the private equity group Blackstone. The store has continued to struggle. Last week, New Yorkers were saddened to learn that Fairway recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and appears to be preparing to liquidate its assets. Though it could successfully emerge from voluntary bankruptcy, particularly if it scales back and focuses on just two or three properties, its future remains uncertain and it faces intense competition from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Fresh Direct.
Thank you for adding this context, Caren! It was a report about the recent news that brought my attention to Fairway.
Maybe it was a bad idea to build an economy that works by having bt obscenely rich people buy businesses, drive them into the ground and then sell them for parts rather than running them https://t.co/vJD9IZg5tU— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) January 22, 2020
I didn’t touch upon this subject in the post, but of course the underlying motivation for these redesigns usually isn’t about formal considerations. They rather reflect changes in ownership, management, or corporate strategy. It’s no coincidence that the old logo was retired around the same time when the chain was spun off in an IPO in April 2013, or that the latest logo change took place shortly after Fairway emerged from bankruptcy in 2016 with new owners.
Here’s a variant of the old logo, spotted by Japanese blogger cpiblog01502 in Harlem in 2009. With the unbalanced spacing, the filled counters, and the raised straight quotes, it certainly isn’t fine typography. At the same time, it’s authentic. This amateur design perfectly captures the allure of a neighborhood market without any excessive expansion plans.