Design Communications

NYC Subway Graphic Standards Manual
Becomes Kickstarter Sensation

NYC_Subway_0

More than four decades have gone by since acclaimed designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark International were hired by the New York Transit Authority (now the MTA) to modernize and unify the look of the subway signage, which by Noorda’s own account “was a mess.” Cluttered with varied typefaces of different sizes and rendered on different materials from mosaic tile to a paper sign stuck to the wall, the old signage system confused more than aided travelers. In its place, Vignelli and Noorda developed a cohesive subway wayfinding system designed to promote intuitive understanding — so much so that they promised: “The passenger will be given information or directions only at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” It did all that and more. The New York Transit Authority’s wayfinding system is still considered a masterpiece of clarity, logic, consistency, and elegant modernist design.

The accompanying 174-page Graphic Standards Manual was as brilliantly written and produced by Vignelli and Noorda. One day in 2013, two young designers at Pentagram – Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth – stumbled upon an original copy of the manual in the basement of Pentagram’s New York office. The pair found the manual so awesome that they wanted to share it with friends, so they created a dedicated website (thestandardsmanual.com) and posted scanned pages online. The site instantly went viral. Within 72 hours, more than a quarter million people visited the site. Although delighted, Reed and Smyth felt strongly that an on-screen viewing didn’t do justice to the beauty of the real Standards Manual. To truly appreciate it, they felt people should see it full size in print, and they set out to produce a book with an introduction by Vignelli protege and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut and an essay by New York Magazine’s Christopher Bonanos, author of “Instant: The Story of Polaroid”.

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Packaging

Branding of Dripp Coffee

The visual identity system for Southern California-based Dripp Coffee Shop is intriguing for what is fixed and what is flexible. Designed by Turner Duckworth San Francisco and London, the Dripp branding system centers around a hand-drawn script logotype which angles upward. The rest of the visual content is structured within a grid of color blocks with minimal flat-graphic images. The flourished style of the letters sets the logo apart from the rest of the visual content and, by contrast, draws attention to itself. The silhouetted objects themselves can be changed to suit the product, season or event, as long as they retain the stylized look and simplified color palette of the brand – as shown in the set of posters below created by Turner Duckworth. This graphic system also accommodates changing needs and uses, including this sleeveless hot paper cup design by Istanbul-based designer Salih Kucukaga.


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Information Graphics

Statehood History Explained with Postal Stamps

This one-of-a-kind flag assemblage, from Kit Hinrichs’ vast Stars & Stripes collection, was designed by the quartermaster of a U.S. military post office during World War II. A closer look reveals that it is not just a flag made out of a bunch of used stamps and cancellation marks; it is clever information graphics. The blue canton is made from dozens of five-cent stamps, and the stars are cut from cancellation marks mailed from the state capital of each of the 48 states that were in the Union in 1943 (see detail after the jump). The unknown artist didn’t stop there. He placed the stars chronologically according to when each state entered the Union. The red stripes are composed of two-cent stamps (yes, they once existed!), and the white stripes are pieced together from envelopes mailed from the states that were part of the Original Thirteen Colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4th, 1776, and founded a new nation of united states. Something to think about while waiting for the fireworks to start. Happy Fourth of July!

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Advertising

Yesterday Channel’s Historical Makeovers

Would you like history better if everything wasn’t so old? This ad campaign to promote UKTV Yesterday Channel’s new 14- part series called “The Secret Life of…” makes over famous figures to help us understand how they might present themselves if they were alive today. The Yesterday channel — which uses the tagline “Entertainment inspired by history” — commissioned award-winning author/historian Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb to work with a team of digital artists to give classic portraits an up-to-date twist. Queen Elizabeth I looks like an “iron lady” CEO who enjoys downsizing under performers.

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Typography

Chester Zoo’s Wild Typography

Manchester-based Music has rebranded Chester Zoo in Chester County, England, by creating a Crayon-colored typeface and logotype that look like they were drawn and embellished by a child — or a clever chimpanzee.

Playful, uninhibited and gleeful, the letterforms, created in collaboration with illustrator Adam Hayes, look like they were done in the wild with crude implements, away from digital devices that would edit out quirks and enforce uniformity. Free-wheeling details spring out of letterforms suggesting that these characters exist outside of captivity. As individually distinct as the letters are, collectively they make up a cohesive font available in four weights and upper and lower case. If animals had opposable thumbs and were able to hold a crayon to create their own font, this is probably how they would describe the Chester Zoo environment — relaxed, happy and free to be who they are.

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Global Trends

20’s & 30’s Graphic Design in Japan

Today design trends ricochet around the globe instantaneously, thanks to the Internet. But a look at these posters, advertisements and magazine covers produced in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s show the integration of art movements from European cultures, including Constructivism, Surrealism and Cubism. The graphic works — which appeared in “Modernism on Paper: Japanese Graphic Design of the 1920s-30s” by Naomichi Kawabata – represent a period when communication design was emerging in Japan. The posters and ads from this period are sometimes referred to as “city art,” because merchants wanted to appeal to urban consumers by departing from traditional pictorial naturalism and embracing message-driven avant-garde visuals that implied that they were keeping pace with styles from the West. The aesthetics and composition communicated this awareness of the larger world and established many of the principles of early graphic design in Japan.