Massimo Vignelli, the designer of this “iconic” NYC subway map died today, and was written up in the NYTimes. Paul Goldberger, former architecture critic for the Times, rhapsodized about it as “more than beautiful.” I’ll say. Goldberger goes on:
Vignelli’s 1972 map wasn’t just lovely to look at. Its obsessive clarity turns out to be the perfect basis for digital information. It’s more modern looking than any of the maps that followed it.
More modern looking than its successors, yes. Is that a clear-cut virtue? Obsessive clarity? Not sure what that means. Or is it obsession with the appearance of clarity? Basis for digital information? Pleeez…
As a frequent visitor to the city in the 1970s, I found the map confusing and practically illegible. It’s resemblance to a circuit design made it worse for me, a colorblind male. Many riders felt the same way, and the map was replaced with a more cartographically realistic, and less geometrical design.
The map may be a wonder, an icon, a fetish, an object of worship for modernist designers, but if so many people found it hard to use, what good is it? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of graphic design? Nothing against his work as a whole, mind you, as I love the brochures he did for the National Park Service that are still in print.
I admire his spirit. The article reports:
Mr. Vignelli said he would have liked the job of developing a corporate identity for the Vatican. “I would go to the pope and say, ‘Your holiness, the logo is O.K.,’ ” he said, referring to the cross, “but everything else has to go.”