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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Tags: mta, subway
Photo Credit: The original New York City subway system graphics standards manual. The Standards Manual