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Vignelli, Designer of Famous Subway Map, Defends His Version Over These Others (IMAGES)

Friday, December 21, 2012

More than iconic, the New York City subway map is a coat of arms for a way of life. It's a tool for 5 million riders a day. It hangs in the Museum of Modern Art. And, occasionally, it changes.

The most recognizable edition remains the most controversial. Designer Massimo Vignelli's clean modern lines and bold colors changed the branding of the subway in 1972 and elevated the map to the level of modern art. It also distorts geography. His map lasted just seven years before confused passengers convinced the MTA to replace it. Vignelli still staunchly defends his design, and in doing so, has offered some choice observations about other versions.

We present some of his comments to you, as recorded during a talk Vignelli gave earlier this year at the New York City Transit Museum.

1939 system-wide NYC subway map

1939 Version:

“There’s too much information. The greatest thing about the London map, if you’ve ever seen it, is that they stick to the subway, the underground. Therefore, there’s no reference to above. In New York, they wanted to put everything. It was too much.”

 

1958 system-wide Subway Map

1958 Version:

“This is more a diagram, but again the details are very fragmented information. You see, all these boxes here, they fragmented the legibility of the line. The express [train] they made in a different way. So it’s too much going on...It could be simplified...Fragmentation is a disease of people that do not know how to design diagrams.”

 

1979 map, which replaced the Vignelli map:

“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.”

 

Updated version of 2008 map, circa 2010

2008 Subway 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.”


1972 "Vignelli" subway map

His own map from 1972:

“Every line a different color, every stop a dot.”

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.

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.

However beautiful, it is geographically abstract, bearing only inadvertent resemblance to the actual street grid above.

For example, the Vignelli map portrays the 50th St stop on the Seventh Ave line, now the 1 train, to be west of the 50th St stop on the Eighth Avenue line, now part of the C and E, confusing New Yorkers with hardened mental pictures of the city in their mind and sending tourists wandering westward into Hells Kitchen hunting for non-existent subway stops. Just seven years after it was released, the MTA replaced Vignelli's “diagram,” as he calls it (because maps only represent geography) with a more traditional map.

But, Vignelli is back in the subway diagram business. With the help of a new design team, he created “The Weekender,” a digital interactive subway map directly inspired by the 1972 hand-drawn diagram.

 

"The Weekender" digital subway map

 2012 “The Weekender”

“It doesn’t make any sense to print a map anymore. In a digital era, a map should be a digital map. All this information could become alive at the moment. So basically, The Weekender... will, should, become the regular map for all the stations. No more printed map. Printed maps are a trap for tourists.”.

“The blinking dots... are terrific. When you think actually, that there’s all this work in subway all the time, you get an idea of the complexity of the job, and what it means to run a transit system. It’s great. It’s a passion.”

 

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Transportation Nation

DC Metro to Add More Rush Hour Trains, with Updated Map

Monday, June 04, 2012


(Washington, D.C. -- Armando Trull, WAMU) As we reported earlier today, public transit ridership is up around the country. Some transit agencies are responding to the longer term trend of increased demand by building new lines. Others, like Washington D.C. area Metro is expanding service on their existing routes. Here's the latest from D.C.

D.C. Metro will start expanded rush hour service to reduce crowding and provide new transfer-free travel opportunities in two weeks. Employees were handing out information packets about the new "Rush Plus" service this morning.

The program will add more trains on the Orange, Blue, Green, and Yellow lines during rush hour.

Metro workers at Franconia Springfield station were handing out information leaflets to let riders there know that the station will soon be serviced by both Blue and Yellow line trains during rush hour. Some Blue Line trains become Yellow Line trains.

"It's adding more rush hour service for our customers," said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, who was on hand this morning at Franconia-Springfield. "Here at Franconia-Springfield, people up until now have only seen Blue Line trains. Starting two weeks from now, they'll also see Yellow Line trains for a faster trip into the District without having to change trains."

On the Orange Line, Metro will add three more trains in each direction every hour during rush hour to reduce crowded conditions. The map gets a little more confusing with the rush hour-only service. A revised version of the Metro map, with dashed lines for the new service, is also being posted to explain the expanded service.

 

Here's the new map or click below for full size:

 

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