By the mid 1960’s the New York subway way finding system was a visual mess. It was a mix of signage and styles with no apparent order to any of it. In 1967, the New York City Transit Authority asked designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda to design a uniform identity and way finding system for the subway that would give riders a sense of direction that was easy to follow and use.
Completed 3 years later in 1970,was the NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual. This was the way finding system bible that became the face of the subway and is still in use today. Vignelli and Noorda gave us everything from color-coded route discs and line routes to the modernist sans-serif typeface ( the original font was Standard Medium, later switched to Helvetica) This design bible was distributed to designers, sign makers, and anyone else who needed help in designing, styling, and building a piece of the subway’s identity.
This iconic piece of work became a design classic in it’s own right, known to pretty much anyone that has studied or practiced design in the last 40 plus years. The manual was never intended for public distribution or consumption. Over the years as the NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual was updated and revised to meet changing needs and habits, fewer and fewer of the original copies remained. Many of the original copies found their way to a landfill or were lost in locked closets and cabinets within the many NYC Transit Authority offices.
A few years ago, two designers for Pentagram’s New York office, Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed, found a single copy. Knowing the importance of what they had theydigitized the manual, and now they’re reprinting it with the blessing of the MTA for a very limited time. For the next thirty days, you can purchase a copy of the 1970 NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual on Kickstarter. Pretty cool, and yes I’ll be buying one.
Four minutes of Paula Scher, the principal of design consultancy Pentagram, brought to you by the people at Gestalten. This is a pretty straight forward interview on her thinking about identity design, and design in general. You may or my not be familiar with her name, but I guarantee you have come in contact with her work. Scher has developed visual identities and branding systems for Microsoft, Coca-Cola, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Public Theater, and many more that you will probably recognize in this short film. You can never have to much knowledge and insight in your brain, and this little interview is guaranteed to educate, and stimulate your gray matter.
“Drawing is a thought process, not a means to reproduce what you see.” this quote from Daniel Weil in the video below, is a a comment that surfaces about 3 minutes in. It arrives as Weil shows off his sketchbooks, and talks about his process, why he draws, and how it helps him resolve problems, and complete ideas. I have said for years, you can’t design if you can’t draw.
This is fundamental to every aspect of the design industry from graphic to industrial to motion and beyond. It is also something that seems to be slipping away from many designers entering the industry today. I say this, because less than 3 years ago I sat in a meeting with a junior level designer that actually said “What if I can’t draw?” after being asked to sketch out some ideas. At the time I remember thinking, “How did you get a degree in design if you can’t draw”, and then moving on.
Over the last few years, the “I can’t draw” phenomenon has surfaced again, and again. This video, shows you why as a designer, you need to, and should draw, sketch, and visualize with something beyond your computer.
You may not think you are familiar with Pentagram, but one look at the body of work they have produced over the last 40 years and you will be instantly aware of who they are. An iconic design firm, this animated short chronicles 40 years of work with wit and charm.
Written by Naresh Ramchandani and Tom Edmonds
Directed by Christian Carlsson
Additional animation by Simone Nunziato
Sound design by Iain Grant and Wam London
Music by Graeme Miller
Titles by John Rushworth
Design by Pentagram
Voiceover by Daniel Lapaine