August 9, 2012

NYC's Coolest Old Subway Map Is 40 Years Old

It was 40 years ago this week that the MTA made what was considered a colossal blunder; it introduced a mod-looking map of the world famous subway system by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli. The map was ultra modern and presented the subway in a grid of orderly and colorful lines that went at right and 45 degree angles. Unfortunately, it was so disconnected from the grid of the city that some stations were out of place and Central Park was represented as a squat, gray square. After a public uproar, the map was replaced in 1979 with the the version that's in use today.

The NY Times has an interesting story-behind-the-story tale of the map that went wrong. One interesting fact is that the map was supposed to be used with a series of other maps in stations that would have been more geographical in connecting to actual streets and tourist spots. Also, the MTA was so enthralled by Vignelli that they did absolutely zero testing of the radically new map before introducing it to a very cranky public. 

Oddly, a new version of the map has had a resurgence, designed by Vignelli himself. As I wrote here, The WEEKENDER started appearing on the MTA's website last year to show weekend changes to lines. It's become so popular that now it's available at all times to show service changes and disruptions, of which there are more than a few.  Glad to see the map is back and Vignelli's reputation somewhat restored too.

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