Massimo Vignelli, graphic designer of famed 1972 subway map, dies at 83

Massimo Vignelli, a legendary graphic designer famed for his Modernist works including a breakthrough 1972 New York City subway map that baffled commuters, has died. He was 83.

The New York Times reported that Vignelli died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan after a long illness.

Vignelli’s design for the city’s subway map was unconventional at the time, because it sacrificed geographical accuracy for clarity. Central Park, for instance, was rendered as a square. The map didn’t find many fans among straphangers, who found it confusing, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority retired it in 1979.

Nevertheless, the influence of the map continues to this day, with the MTA’s “Weekender” map echoing Vignelli’s design. Vignelli also contributed to the design of the graphic standards used throughout the subway system today.

“Massimo Vignelli’s contribution to improving the way New Yorkers find their way around the subway system is hard to overstate, and it will endure for a long time to come,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan, in a statement.

A copy of the map is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.