Legendary Map Designer Disses Competition

At a recent talk at the New York City Transit Museum, Massimo Vignelli, designer of the iconic 1972 NYC subway map, discussed his opinions of the subway maps that preceded and followed his groundbreaking design.
December 22, 2012, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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If your best known creation was hanging in the Museum of Modern Art, you might have reason to look askance at the designs that preceded and followed it. And when designer Massimo Vignelli recently offered his impressions of some of the other New York City subway maps that have appeared over the last century, he didn't disappoint.

For a little background: "When the NY MTA hired Vignelli to develop a new plan for subterranean navigation, he was tasked with streamlining the wayfinding process for riders and bringing New York into the future," says Tom Lisi. "Train routes were straightened into neat angles to make a tidy diagram out of the actual snarl of criss-crossing tunnels. Forty years later, graphic designers still laud Vignelli’s map as a triumph."

Here's Vignelli on the map that replaced his in 1979, after "confused passengers convinced the MTA to replace it":

"This is the map that came after our map. If you have to have abstract geography, why do you have it in any case? Why [sic] have it at all?

“And look at here [pointing to curved path of train line at lower Manhattan]. Who cares if the subway has to make a [turn] like that? I’m going, we’re all going, from Point A to Point B. How we get there is the conductor’s problem, not mine.”

And on the 2008 map:

“We belong to a culture of balloons. [The designers] grow up with comic books, and this is what happens. There’s balloons all over the place. It’s ridiculous.”

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Published on Friday, December 21, 2012 in Transportation Nation
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