Sections

Massimo Vignelli brings his subway map to Brooklyn

Back on the map! Vignelli returns with his famous subway diagram

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

An Italian designer’s once controversial map of the New York City subway was so unpopular, straphangers demanded a replacement — but the elegant and informative diagram is making a comeback.

Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 New York City depiction of the subway system didn’t win many fans in its day due to its abstract and overly utilitarian design that focused only on the underground trip rather than above-ground landmarks — omitting most major sites and turning Central Park into a tiny square.

History, it turns out, has sided with his principled view of how a transit map should function.

“It’s a diagram, rather than a compromise between what is underground and what is above ground,” said 81-year-old Vignelli, who will discuss his famous design and an update that has made the brightly colored map the new face of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s weekend subway service advisories.

“All you want to know is how to go from point A to point B. This is why diagrams are better to convey this kind of information,” said Vignelli, who will speak at the New York Transit Museum on Sept. 12 with designer Michael Bierut.

Vignelli’s diagram bore little resemblance to New York City itself, replacing the chaos and grittiness of the streets with clean, easy-to-follow lines that thread their way across a stark-white abstraction of the boroughs at sharp angles.

New Yorkers opted for a more geographically realistic — and messy — subway map and the city scrapped Vignelli’s creation in 1979 and went back to using a hybrid street-and-line map.

Meanwhile, Vignelli’s map went on to become an icon of design.

“There is no question in the design community that this was a major piece of work,” said Transit Museum director Gabrielle Shubert. “If you look at the London transit map, that is always really abstract and they’ve been using that for a long time.”

Massimo Vignelli and Michael Bierut at the New York City Transit Museum [130 Livingston St. between Smith Street and Boerum Place in Downtown, (718) 694–1600, jump.dexigner.com/news/25531] Sept 12, 6 pm. $15, $10 for members.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Noel Hidalgo from Greenpoint says:
Nice note, but why is this article devoid of links to apps or the website that features this map? In the future, be more useful.
Sept. 4, 2012, 12:38 pm
Look Up from Greenpointer says:
"Massimo Vignelli and Michael Bierut at the New York City Transit Museum [130 Livingston St. between Smith Street and Boerum Place in Downtown, (718) 694–1600, jump.dexigner.com/news/25531] Sept 12, 6 pm. $15, $10 for members."
Sept. 4, 2012, 2:53 pm
Jake from Clinton Hill says:
How is a map "utilitarian" if it doesn't have a relationship to the city it describes. And people don't actually want to just go from subway station a to subway station b - they want to go from above ground location a to above ground location b. Silly.
Sept. 4, 2012, 7:12 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.