See NYC’s bold new subway map, inspired by Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 cla

New York’s subway system has a new map with a really outdated design idea.

Rolling out in a handful of stations throughout town, a pilot model of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway map options an abstracted model of town overlaid with bold traces marking every route. It’s an try to make clear the place every line goes and the way they join at stations.

The printed map, now being examined on the partitions of 9 subway stations, is an up to date model of a Seventies-era map that has change into a traditional instance of informational design. The new map simplifies the form of town and the exact location of subway traces to present riders an simply understandable overview of the system, exhibiting which traces join and tips on how to get throughout boroughs or into totally different neighborhoods.

[Image: MTA]

The new abstracted maps are coupled with extra geographically correct maps of town’s bus system, providing extra element on the precise location of companies. MTA chief buyer officer Sarah Meyer is main the hassle to revamp the system’s maps, and says the bus map affords “geographic relevance” to indicate what number of blocks it should take to get from one place to a different, whereas the abstracted subway map offers a easy strategy to know the place to alter trains or tips on how to get throughout city.


[Image: MTA]

The new subway map relies on a famous and controversial design first carried out in 1972. Developed by modernist designer Massimo Vignelli and his agency Vignelli Associates, the decidedly minimalist design didn’t take lengthy to boost eyebrows, each amongst subway riders and throughout the MTA. By 1978, the straightforward however technically inaccurate map had created such an argument {that a} debate over its future was staged on the Cooper Union artwork faculty. As explored in a current e-book from documentarian Gary Hustwit, Vignelli was pitted in opposition to the chair of the MTA Subway Map committee, John Tauranac, who had his personal concept for a extra geographically correct map. Tauranac praised Vignelli’s model as aesthetically pleasing, however brushed it off as extra artwork than data. “It’s made some beautiful T-shirts for us on the MTA. However there isn’t any relationship between the subway routes and town above,” Tauranac stated. Vignelli’s map was doomed.

The following yr, Vignelli’s map was changed by a map based mostly on Tauranac’s idea and designed by Hertz Associates. It includes a extra correct illustration of town’s structure and distance between stations, however simplifies the illustration of subway routes by typically combining a number of traces right into a single trunk. The Hertz design has been in use since 1979.

Just a few years in the past, the MTA started reconsidering the knowledge of the Hertz design within the digital age. In 2020, Meyer labored with the interactive company Work & Co to develop a digital model of the subway map that riders might use to plan journeys and see when service modifications would possibly have an effect on their routes. Earlier than, service updates and modifications had been principally communicated on paper inside stations.

“I’m personally directionally challenged and actually depend on maps,” Meyer says. “The disconnect from having our prospects use two totally different visible varieties to attempt to perceive the place service is felt unsuitable to me.”

[Photo: MTA/Marc Hermann]

One among Quick Firm’s 2021 Innovation By Design award winners, the digital map streamlines all this data – together with actual time arrivals – into an app and map with one visible language. The new printed maps being examined in subway stations had been developed in parallel and are the static model of the app. They’re supposed for use together with each other, with riders planning origin-to-destination journeys on the app and utilizing the printed maps in stations to know routes throughout the system at a look. Along side the geographically correct bus map, they supply two ranges of element.

“The 2 collectively is a really highly effective strategy to perceive the geography of the system, the place you want to go and the way lengthy it’s prone to take you to get right here,” says J.P. Chan, senior director of inventive at MTA. “You could have one of the best of each worlds.”

[Photo: MTA/Marc Hermann]

They’re additionally supposed for use alongside maps riders probably have already got of their pockets. Not like the previous, when the bodily map within the subway station was the first method riders might plan their journeys, riders at the moment have extra choices, from smartphone map apps, in-station digital shows, in addition to printed maps. Riders can view a number of map relying on how a lot data they want, as an alternative of counting on a single map to convey the complete system. “That’s a giant burden to ask of a giant poster in a station,” Chan says.


Although the new abstracted subway map could also be seen as vindication for Vignelli and followers of his Seventies map, Meyer says the redesign is just not about selecting sides, however about getting folks data effectively.

“We’re not pitting Vignelli versus Hertz,” Meyer says. “We’re placing up what’s related for 2021 riders and the instruments that they’ve.”

The maps put in within the 9 subway stations additionally embrace a QR code linking to a web based survey that riders can use to supply suggestions on the designs. Chan says the MTA has obtained lots of of responses to this point, and the maps will proceed to evolve forward of a systemwide rollout. A closing model of the new map is probably going months away, Meyer says. “However not that many months.”