The Designer of NYC’s Subway Map Dead

It almost seems surprising when you read that everyday items that you hardly consider, they’re just part of your life, just always there, were designed by somebody consciously to be that: utilitarian, unobtrusive and easy to use. Massimo Vignelli designed this subway map in 1972 and it became an icon printed on shirts, mugs, dresses, etc. People would get the subway maps and hang them on their walls as artwork. I did.

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Even more importantly, Vignelli brought Helvetica to America.

He also co-produced the New York City Transit Authority’s legendary Graphic Standards Manual, which standardized transit signage and introduced Helvetica to the U.S. In that same NPR interview, he said: “When I came to New York, we brought the type along because it didn’t exist at the time here. People say that I single-handedly turned this country into a Helvetica country.”

That’s the definition of something you see all the time and do not think about. But somebody designed that typeface. Somebody popularized it. Some of his other designs on display at MOMA.

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