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Mr. Vignelli’s Map

The most interesting part of the map designed by Massimo Vignelli, was its failure.  The map was rejected because it did not accurately represent the precise shape of Central Park or the exact number of blocks between one station and the next.  Ironically, this failure is what makes this design a success.  The map was designed to help tourists, and even native New Yorkers, better understand the jumbled mess of train lines that made up the New York Subway system.  It was not intended to be a guide to New York’s literal streets, so for what reason should this map be concerned with the literal shapes of the ground above?  If space was used to detail the streets of New York, it would have subtracted from the space needed to detail the train lines and the many stops they inhabited.  In that aspect, Vignelli skillfully deciphered the New York train system; for those who need to know how many blocks it takes to walk from Penn Station to Central Park, pick up a map intended to lay out the New York street system.

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