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The subway lover’s Holy Grail: Pentagram’s original graphic guidelines for NYC subway

Excerpt from The Atlantic Cities

Mar 07, 2013 6:44 am

Skift Take

Christmas came early this year for design geeks and straphangers. Fingers crossed that a publisher will snap up the rights for the manual.

— Jason Clampet

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The Standards Manual

The original New York City subway system graphics standards manual. The Standards Manual


Late one night last August, three Pentagram designers rummaging through the design firm’s basement archives found the Rosetta Stone of New York subway graphics: the original Standards Manual, designed by Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli in the late 1960s.

The 180-page binder, the key to the system’s iconic design choices, outlines a meticulous vision of signage intended not merely to look good — though it does — but to simplify navigation of the subterranean labyrinth. In its attention to passenger behavior, the manual goes above and beyond what most of us would term graphic design.

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