The New York subway map’s first major redesign in 40 years unites the best parts of its controversial creative history

The MTA worked with Work & Co on the project, documented by Gary Hustwit in a film capturing how modern technology helped to put old design conflicts to rest

Published On
Oct 20, 2020

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Today, the New York MTA updated its iconic subway map for the digital age in its first major design overhaul in 40 years. The organization worked with agency Work & Co and the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private partnership between the MTA and the partnership for New York City, to create the new real-time visualization of the public transport system.

In a remarkable design feat, the “live” map builds off the original's rich, yet controversial design history, which saw conflict between the spare, modernist version conceived by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli in 1972 and the more accurate and information-rich rendering subsequently created by designer Michael Hertz. 
 

To document the efforts, the MTA and Work & Co. tapped documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit (“Helvetica,” “Objectified” ), to direct the short film "The Map." It captures the process of the map's creation and how modern-day technology has allowed the new version to incorporate the best of previous designs, rendering creative conflicts of the past practically moot.

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On the surface, the new map reflects Vignelli’s sleek modernism, but when users zoom in, they’ll find all the rich content provided by Hertz’s concept. Add to that real-time data informing users of service changes as well as visualizations of where trains are at any given moment, across 425 stops and 26 different lines. 

“The live map lets you ignore the fight, move past the fight,” says MTA Director of Digital Customer of Experience Josh Gee in the film. “The fight’s a fight for when we didn’t have the technology.”

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Credits

Date
Oct 20, 2020
Client :
MTA
Agency :
Work & Co
Director :
Gary Hustwit
Producer :
Gary Hustwit
Producer :
TJ Kearney
Executive Producer for Film First :
Jessica Edwards
Director of Photography :
Ben Wolf
Editor :
Isabel Ponte
Original Score :
Danz CM
Featuring :
Felipe Memoria
Featuring :
Rachel Haot
Featuring :
Sarah Meyer
Featuring :
Joshua Gee
Featuring :
Marcela Abbade
Featuring :
Karina Sirqueira
Featuring :
Robert Penner
Featuring :
Mohan Ramaswamy
Motion Director :
Laura Ambrose
Motion Designer :
Tsuriel Eichenstein
Motion Designer :
Sang Kim
Motion Designer :
Corbin Dowd
Motion Designer :
Young Woo
2nd Unit Filming :
Lauren Martin
2nd Unit Filming :
Cam Östman
Production Assistance :
Sanjay Singh
Production Assistance :
Jasper Curtis
Post-production Services :
Postworks
Colorist :
Eric Ramistella
Sound Mixer :
Christopher Koch
Image and Video Sources :
Getty Images
Image and Video Sources :
Paramount Pictures
Image and Video Sources :
Stan Ries
Image and Video Sources :
Helen Levitt
Image and Video Sources :
US National Archives and Record Administration
Image and Video Sources :
Wikimedia Commons
Image and Video Sources :
Photo Communications Co.

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