Ah, the MTA subway map. Whether you've had to stand directly over a clearly uncomfortable seated stranger so you can figure out where you're going, or if you've had to turn to it on your phone when your plans to get home have gone horribly wrong, it's likely that you've had some rough experiences trying to make sense of this five-borough visual labyrinth. But what if the impossible puzzle were easier to read? Would it change how we get around the city, or even how we view the New York in general? Over the years, several geometrically-ambitious artists have proposed new versions of the old grid. Here's some that we think the MTA should consider getting behind.
In 1972, graphic artist Massimo Vignelli caused a stir when his Frank Stella-reminiscent map was put into use by the MTA. Though the art community raptured at the sight of his bold, angular design, many tourists complained that Vignelli had reduced boroughs, parks and neighborhoods into blank swaths and oversimplified the complex layout of the city. The MTA replaced the map in 1979, but later approached Vignelli to create an interactive online map reminiscent of his original design.
David Heasty and Stephanie Weigler, the duo behind Triboro Design, recently unveiled their own marvelously bright map that strips the city map to red and white, emphasizing stations over lines.
With nearly a dozen redesigns of the NYC subway (among other systems from cities around the world), designer Max Roberts has created nifty ways of looking at the MTA grid that go from traditional to nearly psychedelic.
His interpretation of the Vignelli-style map smooths out the 45 degree angles into more visually-pleasing 30/60 degree curves.
His dazzling Circles Map reorients the city into a round web with a clear center that's shockingly easy to digest.
This clean interpretation of the current map by graphic designer Jug Cerovic adds a little softness and delight to the grim grid.
For his user-friendly app KickMap, Eddie Jabbour designed visuals that present the MTA line without geographical context and, conversely, a fun map that helps break down stations by their neighborhood.
You can check out decades' worth of subway maps in Max Ovenden's newly updated book Transit Maps of the World.