Unimark — New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual

One of our biggest interests is in urban design and, more specifically, the way that designers around the world tackle the problem of public transportation comprehension.

Nowhere is good design needed more than the New York City Subway system which, with its 469 stations, can be a little daunting for first (and tenth) time riders.

If you think that the current NYC subway system is difficult to navigate, go take a look at the way things were in the 1960s and prior, when the signage was an unholy clusterfuck.

That was before Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Chicago—based design studio Unimark International got their chance to rethink how the system portrayed itself to riders with a comprehensive branding and graphics redesign.

This graphics standards binder from 1970 was lost for decades until Hamish Smyth, Niko Skourtis and Jesse Reed of NYC’s famous Pentagram uncovered a copy of it in the basement of their Flatiron District office. With the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s blessing, they launched a Kickstarter in 2012 to get it reprinted.

The binder is truly amazing, and goes unbelievably in-depth into the specifications and reasoning behind the long-lasting signage design that has survived more than forty years in one of the fastest moving cities on our planet.

It’s an unforgettable testament to the incredible importance of long-lasting and functional design, and one that should remind every designer why we do what we do.