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N6 Limited

Why New Yorkers Insisted On a "Worse" Subway Map - Cheddar Explains

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The video only refers to the original Vignelli design. I wonder what the creators would think about the recent redesign? Like the Weekender diagram, and the maps the MTA gave out at the SAS opening. All the parks are removed, so there is no sense of distance, and Broadway is changed to be a diagonal rather than right angles, so 50th Street, which this video spends so much time talking about, is depicted closer to where it actually is.

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23 hours ago, 7LineFan said:

The video only refers to the original Vignelli design. I wonder what the creators would think about the recent redesign? Like the Weekender diagram, and the maps the MTA gave out at the SAS opening. All the parks are removed, so there is no sense of distance, and Broadway is changed to be a diagonal rather than right angles, so 50th Street, which this video spends so much time talking about, is depicted closer to where it actually is.

Honestly, I think the redesigned Vignelli map (he actually did a redesign in 2008 that was displayed in Men’s Vogue magazine), was a good compromise. The current trunk color scheme and the change of Broadway to a diagonal, actually make the map look clear and aesthetically pleasing. However they should make the water blue and bring back the parks. Then it would truly work. I personally found the original to be a mess, mostly because the 1967-79 line color scheme didn’t lend itself very easily to that kind of map, mostly because the ‘67 color scheme itself was a mess. There seemed to be no real pattern for how the colors were assigned back then. Almost every line looked like it was reverse branched due to all the different colors everywhere. At least the current (1979) scheme makes some sense out of how the trunk lines branch out.

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5 hours ago, T to Dyre Avenue said:

However they should make the water blue and bring back the parks.

To be fair, both the current and 1971 maps are a lot closer to the actual color of New York Harbor than blue.

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1 hour ago, bobtehpanda said:

To be fair, both the current and 1971 maps are a lot closer to the actual color of New York Harbor than blue.

Forgot the brown stains, but at least the maps get them after a little time on display.

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12 hours ago, T to Dyre Avenue said:

Honestly, I think the redesigned Vignelli map (he actually did a redesign in 2008 that was displayed in Men’s Vogue magazine), was a good compromise. The current trunk color scheme and the change of Broadway to a diagonal, actually make the map look clear and aesthetically pleasing. However they should make the water blue and bring back the parks. Then it would truly work. I personally found the original to be a mess, mostly because the 1967-79 line color scheme didn’t lend itself very easily to that kind of map, mostly because the ‘67 color scheme itself was a mess. There seemed to be no real pattern for how the colors were assigned back then. Almost every line looked like it was reverse branched due to all the different colors everywhere. At least the current (1979) scheme makes some sense out of how the trunk lines branch out.

This redesign is actually used for the Weekender.

Personally, they should just switch to that map, because you really don't need most of the crap on the current one. It is at least better than the old map (up to '09 I think?) that had the hideous callout boxes with the buses.

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As far as the actual map goes, I think Vignelli is actually poor because the font is so goddamn small. The subway map should not require pressing your face against the glass to read it. Though the current map also wastes so much space that the font is very small as well.

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Yes, the Vignelli map font is very small, both on the original and the 2008 redesign. The MTA fixed that when they increased it and eliminated the street at each stop that the station runs over, under or nearest to. 

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Yeah, I don't get all the fuss. I've seen the Vignelli map, and I don't see how it was revolutionary nor how it's garnered all this fanboy-ism and detraction.

I looked at the WMATA map today, and it looks like a Vignelli-inspired one (as did the old MARTA maps back when trains were still called North/South or Dunwoody or Doraville lines). It was intelligible, but I look at the Weekender map and wonder WTF? 

(It's actually because I couldn't understand the Weekender map that I found both NYCTF AND @Lance's blog.) 

So can anyone explain this Vignelli love/hate to me, like I'm 5?

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I'll give it a shot.

The Vignelli maps were considered revolutionary at the time because they were the first NYC subway maps to be completely diagrammatic and one of the first to give each subway line its own representation on the map. Prior to this, maps were mostly designed in a strictly geographic fashion, as seen on various Hagstrom maps from the 1930s and '40s, or some kind of hybrid between the two, like with the George Salomon maps from the late 1950s and early '60s.

The latter point of giving each subway line its own stroke on the map is the more important aspect here though. As seen in both the Hagstrom and Salomon maps, services were not represented by individual lines or strokes there, but by their former operators pre-unification. While an important factor before 1940 since there were few inter-agency transfers in the subway at the time, it became an extremely archaic holdover from a period that was no longer relevant, one that would've become even more obsolete if the design remained in place after Chrystie St opened in '67. That short connection finally made the TA consider a different way to represent the subway lines instead of the decades-old tri-color design, which led to the rainbow pride hybrid map released in 1967. Because that map looked half-finished, along with the post-modernism of the 1960s appealing to MTA chairman Ronan, Vignelli was contracted to create a new design of subway map that would go along with the Unimark-designed signage standards.

Naturally, because the Vignelli map was such a departure from maps of old, it wasn't well received. The fact that only eight colors were used for 24 different services and four shuttles only made it harder to understand the map, thus rendering it useless to the average rider. Everyone mentions the bit about the locations of the two "50 Street" stations being swapped or that Broadway makes two 90 degree turns on the map instead of being shown as a series of diagonal lines, but the blending of route colors at several key intersections made for easy confusion, especially when taking a quick look at the map, as one would do. Perhaps if the '79 trunk color design was implemented prior to the Vignelli map's unveiling, as illustrated here, it might've stuck around longer. Alas that was not the case and the Diamond Jubilee trunk color change also brought in a new map design, one that is still in use some 40 years later with only slight changes from its original design.

As for why the Vignelli design is so divisive, it's mainly due to personal preference. Some feel the subway map should only be a map for the subway without all of the "unnecessary noise" that's prevalent on the current subway map while others believe that "clutter" is in fact quite useful as people are not traveling from station to station, but rather from one address to another. For me, I like the design of the Vignelli map because it looks nice and is a clean design, but I prefer the current design of subway map because I feel it's actually useful.

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For my 1979 color version of the 1972 map? All text for the stations and service guide are in a combination of Helvetica Bold and Helvetica Medium. The font for the subway bullets are in Standard/Akzidenz Grotesk. Finally, the text in the bottom right of the map, shown below, uses the light version of the DIN font.

image.png.7b139e1b78e58643127df1b731d139fb.png

Hope that helps.

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