Massimo Vignelli, designer of iconic New York subway map, 1931-2014

new york subway map
Public Domain Metropolitan Transportation Authority

When Massimo designed his version of the New York subway map in 1972, people hated it. According to the New York Times obituary for Vignelli, who died today:

Rather than represent the subway lines as the spaghetti tangle they are, it showed them as uniform stripes of various colors running straight up and down or across at 45-degree angles — not unlike an engineer’s schematic diagram of the movement of electricity. What upset many riders even more was that the map ignored much of the city above ground. It reduced the boroughs to white geometric shapes and eliminated many streets, parks and other familiar features of the cityscape....Gray, not green, was used to denote Central Park; beige, not blue, to indicate waterways.

Massimo responded years later: “Of course, I know the park is green and not gray. Who cares? You want to go from Point A to Point B. The only thing you are interested in is the spaghetti.”

Indeed, as an occasional user, I can attest that it works. It was also beautiful; Paul Goldberger called it “a nearly canonical piece of abstract graphic design.” It is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

It was replaced by the MTA with a more geographical version, but in 2011 was reissued online as the weekender.

MTA/Public Domain

Vignelli brought an appreciation of Italian design to North America. The Times notes:

He preached clarity and coherence and practiced it with intense discipline in everything he turned out, whether kitchenware, public signage, books or home interiors.

Massimo Vignelli, dead at 83.

What is the TreeHugger obsession with transit Maps?

Harry Beck, 1939/Public Domain

Perhaps we take a lot of transit. Or, as Mike put it:

What can we say, we love beautiful transit maps. They're a modern artform, and while some are just traditional maps (and that's fine), others put an interesting twist on things.

See related links below.

Tags: Designers | Public Transportation