Lifestyle

The 1970's NYC Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual Is Back

Whether you use it for your morning commute or once spent 24 hours trying to get from Times Square to Bushwick, almost everyone's had some type of experience riding the New York City subway.

Nowadays, it's (relatively) easy to find your way from point A to point B using guidebooks, screenshots from Google Maps, and the occasional kindness of strangers. Before the Internet, GPS, and *gasp!* iPhones, all you had at your disposal were the subway signs in front of you. This full-size reissue of the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual celebrates this era and takes you back to 1970, when subway font went through a major overhaul and became standardized. 

Up until the mid-1960s, subway signs were completely inconsistent as far as size, font, placement, and description. Chaotic wouldn't even begin to express the madness that was the subway back in the '60s. No one knew where to look or go—similar to SoHo on any given day in 2014.  

This book chronicles the design by Unimark's Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda, who were hired by the New York City Transit Authority to design a standard signage and way-finding system for the masses. 

Now 42 years after its release, the Graphics Standards Manual is getting a second wind on Kickstarter, where typography-nuts and mouth-breathing history nerds can obsess over the clean Helvetica font, and the spacing choices on "Uptown" and "The Bronx." 

The reissue cover, introduction, and essay headings have been painstakingly recreated by type designer Nick Sherman to give you the most authentic experience possible. 

With the MTA on their side, this reissue is, not only a celebration of history, but a firm statement in the direction of "Hey, we're not so bad" by the people who helped make the subway less of a deathtrap and more of a normal mode of public transportation. 

It's like being in The Warriors, while you accompany the notorious gang "The Bronx" to Coney Island through the subway. Except here you don't have to worry about taking a baseball bat to the face. Ain't New York grand?


Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and, if he was in a gang, would be in one that enforced bejeweled vests under the penalty of death.