Johnston was an important British calligrapher, typeface designer, and educator. After ill‐health had cut short his study of medicine at Edinburgh University he decided to pursue his long‐standing interests in lettering and illumination. He was introduced to the designer and educator William Lethaby, who suggested that he study manuscripts in the British Museum. Johnston went on to teach writing and calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London (1899–1912), and the Royal College of Art. He also designed typography and his emphatically modern letterforms for London Underground signage commissioned by Frank Pick in 1916 won widespread recognition. Johnston was also responsible for the modernization of the London Underground logo, resulting in the famous circle and bar motif. He undertook a range of design work for private presses such as the Doves Press (co‐founded by one of his pupils, T. J. Cobden‐Sanderson), including a number of initials for the Doves Bible (1905). His influence was felt strongly in Germany partly on account of his work for Count Kessler's Cranach Press, founded in Weimar in 1913. Johnston wrote a number of influential texts, including Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering (1906), Manuscript and Inscription Letters (1909), and A Book of Sample Scripts (1914). He was also one of the editors of the typographic and printing journal The Imprint (1913–15).
Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art — Bibliography.