Massimo Vignelli Dead At 83

The name Massimo Vignelli is a household name to NYC Subway buffs as he created the dramatic NYC Subway map in 1972. While I had read he was gravely ill with little time left, it is still sad to read that he passed away earlier today at his home in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

While his designs have led to never ending debates, we can not deny how is influence is still all over the NYC Subway to this day. Here is more via Douglas Martin of the New York Times:

Massimo Vignelli, an acclaimed graphic designer who gave shape to his spare, Modernist vision in book covers and shopping bags, furniture and corporate logos, even church pews and a New York City subway map that enchanted aesthetes and baffled straphangers, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

His death, after a long illness, was confirmed by Carl Nolan, a longtime employee of Mr. Vignelli.

An admirer of the architects Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, Mr. Vignelli moved to New York from Italy in the mid-1960s with the hope of propagating a design aesthetic inspired by their ideal of functional beauty.

Mr. Vignelli described himself as an “information architect,” one who structures information to make it more understandable. But when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released his new subway map in 1972, many riders found it the opposite of understandable. Rather than represent the subway lines as the spaghetti tangle they are, it showed them as uniform stripes of various colors running straight up and down or across at 45-degree angles — not unlike an engineer’s schematic diagram of the movement of electricity.

What upset many riders even more was that the map ignored much of the city above ground. It reduced the boroughs to white geometric shapes and eliminated many streets, parks and other familiar features of the cityscape. Tourists complained of getting off the subway near the south end of Central Park and finding that a stroll to its northern tip, 51 blocks away, took more than the 30 minutes they had expected. Gray, not green, was used to denote Central Park; beige, not blue, to indicate waterways.

“Of course, I know the park is green and not gray,” Mr. Vignelli said in an interview with The New York Times in 2006. “Who cares? You want to go from Point A to Point B. The only thing you are interested in is the spaghetti.”

Design aficionados considered the map — Mr. Vignelli preferred to call it a diagram — an ingenious work of streamlined beauty. It earned a place in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection of postwar design.

The map was replaced in 1979 with a more geographically faithful representation. But in 2011, the M.T.A. finally warmed to the Vignelli approach: It asked him to reinterpret his 1972 design for an interactive map on its website. Called “The Weekender,” it tells of changes in weekend subway service.

Click here for the complete article.

R.I.P. Massimo Vignelli

xoxo Transit Blogger

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