Something you probably don’t know about me: I love maps. If I lived alone, I’d cover my walls with them1.

I’m particularly fond of public transit maps and diagrams, so I was thrilled to find this 2012 New York Times story about Massimo Vignelli’s radical 1972 redesign of New York’s subway map. Alice Rawsthorn writes:

No sooner had the Metropolitan Transportation Authority introduced a new map of the New York subway system on Aug. 7, 1972, than complaints flooded in. Many stations seemed to be in the wrong places. The water surrounding the city was colored beige, not blue. As for Central Park, it appeared to be almost square, rather than an elongated rectangle, three times bigger than the map suggested, and was depicted in a dreary shade of gray.

The map was, indeed, riddled with anomalies, but that was the point. Its designer, Massimo Vignelli, had sacrificed geographical accuracy for clarity by reinterpreting New York’s tangled labyrinth of subway lines as a neat diagram. Each station was shown as a dot and linked to its neighbors by color-coded routes running at 45- or 90-degree angles. Mr. Vignelli had used his design skills to tidy up reality.

Yes, I’m making sure I have a print of this up at my next home.


  1. It’s a good thing I don’t live alone, huh?