Over the last year, I’ve compiled an extensive collection of historical New York City subway maps dating back to the late 1940s. It’s fascinating to see how the subway map has evolved along with the geographical representations of the city. In my opinion, today’s map is far too cluttered to be absolutely usable, and the pinnacle of subway representation in New York with an eye toward both geography and ease of map use would involve a combination of the Vignelli map and the 1979 Michael Hertz Association version reworking. Once I have some spare time and access to a good flat-bed scanner, I’ll be writing a series of posts on the subway map over time.
Today in amNew York, Heather Haddon examined the history behind the evolution of our current subway map. She traces the move from the Vignelli map to the Hertz version and explains how the MTA’s color-coded system, still in place today, came to be. The current version is an outgrowth of Hertz’s 1979 rendering, and last year, it celebrated its 30th anniversary. “It’s an absolute work of art and very clear,” Peter Lloyd, a U.K. author writing a history of the subway map, said. It’s clarity might be lacking today, but the old maps are definitely works of art.