Sign Design

From The Standards Manual

1970's MTA Standards Manual, a legendary design guide, is being reissued

In 1967, the subway was a very different place. Forgot about those robot voices reminding you to say something, in the event that you see something – there wasn’t even a unified system of signage in place.

That year, the New York City Transit Authority (as it was then known) hired legendary graphic designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark International to create a graphic standard for every subway sign, station, and train.

Vignelli and Noorda delivered the Standards Manual in 1970, and the subway was never the same again (though it was the same everywhere, in its way).

The manual – offering painstaking attention to everything from the correct proportions of a directional arrow to an invented modular system for proper kerning – quickly assumed mythic status among design types.

Earlier this year, three designers at Pentagram found a rare copy of the manual under some clothes in the basement of the agency, and they began uploading a copyrighted page every day to Twitter.

Now, through an exclusive, and fairly odd, licensing agreement with the MTA, the designers will be scanning and printing a full-size hardcover edition of the guide, selling it through Kickstarter. Under the terms of the deal, however, they can only sell the book during the 30-day campaign.

The campaign launched yesterday, and already it has exceeded the $108,000 goal (pledges were nearing $250,000 as of this morning). If you want to pick up a copy of The Standards Manual for yourself, you need to act fast. Buy it here.

Now go forth (and don’t get lost).


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