Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

The Design of Vignelli’s Subway Map and Its Historical Context
Introduction
Vignelli’s subway map was designed in 1972 in New York City. It originated from the design of the many New York subway designs by Massimo Vignelli. This map was intended to be vivid and to help passengers easily plan a trip through-out the city. Initially, there were three separate New York City subway system; BMT,IND and IRT. These systems were fully merged into one connected plan in 1967 followed by a design of a sleek by Massimo Vignelli. In 1972, this updated version was instantly hit by designers, architects and people in the arts. It became very controversial as many people had trouble in understanding how to use it. Vignelli had traded geographical precision for simplicity and accuracy in order to untangle the knot of intersecting train lines to make a clean diagram. Due to these controversies the Vignelli’s map was returned to its cluttered state within seven years of its premiere yet gradually over time it earned iconic status in MoMA and design history. This research paper will evaluate and determine the relationships and connection between the design artefact and its historical context (Vignelli’s subway map).

Origin of the Vignelli’s Subway Map
The mid-1960s, navigating the New York City subway system was chaotic. It was a struggle of uneven commercial signs and untangled communication patterns without discerned logic. This aggregation of culled visible mode led in a blemished passengers sensation in need of a system overtake. With the risen commonness in design of graphics limits-internationally, a growing public knowledge of the best designs, it was now vivid that the subway required an overhaul and an effective and efficient navigational procedure.

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A new design consultancy was established by Massimo Vignelli and his counterpart Bob Noorda in New York-Unimark International in 1965. They had already established veritable firm dealing with design across Europe continent and still targeted to kick start their modernized design beliefs to compliment any escalating design requirement of New York clients. About the same period, Vignelli and Noorda were made known to a design custodian at the Museum of Modern Art- Mildred Constantine. She is well networked in the New York City’s geographical landscape. Mildred knew about the ancient design art and committed them to the relevant individuals at the controllers of New York City subway. Thirsty for a change of existing voyage assembly, the Transit Authority promptly accepted them in, aiming to consolidate and modernize the subway posters and route identification system. They were expected to understand that which many passengers looked for, where to find it and eventually provide it, in the minimal disturbing way possible. Before what seemed one year in America, Vignelli and Noorda secured the definitive project that they yearned for.
At the time when the existing subway landed in the Unimark’s lap it was in a state of disarray. With no consolidated guiding principles and credible order in place, Vignelli and Noorda had no existing logic to work from. Vividly, they had to discard everything they hinted about the current basic facilities to start over. In their beginning time during this period, they spent so much time undisclosed, observing human movements in and out of the trains with those going past stop points. They observed their characters, their destination and movement and their way of getting ideas on movement. With time, different companies were commissioned to avail the underground commercial signs and also provide pointers to a direction done in terms of typeface, its size and lighting with the other.
The onset of the realization of consultation by the graphic designers led to creation of the design consultancy firms. Most professional designer and design custodians have peculiar perspective of identifying how a designer might have settled for a given design and why some artefacts works in a historical context. Making logos and design posters took the designer so litte time as they made it a holistic approach towards implementing design strategies. Their approach aimed at finding the mistakes with the design system and try to fix them. They were more focused on how things were experienced than how they would look and move into something similar to the passenger’s easy design knowledge that is available in their cellular phone applications instead on simple posters and logo design. The designers used their gathered data from their working experience and their intensive research which included the splendid 8 level conventional for placing commercial signs which keenly came after the passenger’s route into a subway station. This only left out a map for effective navigation. Fronted by Vignelli the iconic piece was produced- an official map showing the New York City subway system. This iconic piece received different views. It was adored by the designers and criticized by the natives who expected a correct geographically map instead of a modernized schematic layout. Vignelli then made the use of subways more unlined a process he referred to as going from dot to dot. This improvement came as a result of the criticism from the people as he felt it was a simple problem of people wanting to know where they were and where to go from the maps. The dot to dot now made it easy for the users to find where they were on the right track and they would count the halts taken to reach where they wanted to be. He omitted above ground details and instead used easily read colour shade system, which showed uniformly separated stations which can be mastered both by the locals and the visitors together.

Problems Encountered during the Design of Vignelli’s Subway Map
A series of problems were encountered from the design of this map both from other designers and from the users themselves. The users complaints were: many stations existed in the wrong places as opposed to what was on the land, the water bodies within the city in the map was not blue but beige, the central arena seemed more square than the elongated rectangular and seemed much larger than the representation on the map indicated and was delineated in a drab shade of gray. These anomalies outraged the natives as they argued out that it was a misrepresentation of their city whereas tourists had difficulties in comparing the design with what was represented on the ground. These shortcomings were as a result of rushing the design into implementation without passing through the usual rounds of consumer research. The MTA equally introduced only one of the four maps designed by Vignelli with the intentions that they would give users all the information they needed to navigate the subway collectively. These maps illustrated how to get from one point to another, yet it was to be available in every station with two geographical maps; one containing the entire network and another of the neighborhood and a verbal map that illustrated in words how to go from place to place something that Mr. Vignelli never conceived in being utilized without.

Other Maps That Showed Similarities and Differences as Vignelli’s
The maps configured by John Tauranac’s committee in 1978 is considered better geographically accurate but quite distinguished from the other subway signage. The overall filling of this map is messed by the free flowing lines which makes it hard to name a bigger portion of the stations horizontally. The map shows a few names of the streets which is not efficient to function as a good street map. Viginelli’s map showed more street names than Tauranac’s. The Tauranac map shows joint trains running along the same trunk to one single line and categorizes the trains that stops at particular station below the station name which no hand brought clarity in places like Manhattan which would otherwise be full of crisscrossing lines yet on the other hand, it makes it harder to understand the lines that run express and those which are local.

New York City subway has a special feature of lines which run local, then express and local again that no map can show it properly and is specifically confusing the tourists. The map designed by Vignelli works effectively than the official map by showing every train as a separate line yet it is still hard to get a general comprehension of the express sections since every line is drawn with similar weight.

Significance of the Vignelli’s Maps
Like any other map Vignelli’s subway map designs help both the tourists and natives in knowing geographical locations and how to navigate about the New York City. It equally enables them to know when to use which route or which train. In touring this region certain stops and different geographical landmarks and features are equally crucial to the passengers most particularly the tourist who have no idea of the in route of the region. The maps equally help in knowing the weather changes and climate of different regions so as to plan adequately on the attire to put on and when.

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