Love it or hate it, the “grid” has been a fact of life in Manhattan for 200 years. I spent 21 years of my life alternately bragging then complaining about this marvel of city planning that was once probably quite useful to those traversing the long, narrow island. Of course with any grid comes “grid-lock” and anyone who’s ever tried to cross Manhattan on four wheels has certainly experienced the fatal flaw in this boro’s design: human beings. Phil Patton’s article here provides a good historical overview along with the cultural impact the grid has had over the centuries. Interested in viewing more old drawings and maps? Check out Vincent Virga’s Historic Maps and Views of New York, an over-sized collection of historical drawings, engravings and renderings of NYC.
Posts Tagged ‘New York’
I wish I could fly to New York to see this exhibit more than is possible to describe here. I’ve been a fan of World War 3 Illustrated since I first landed in NYC in the summer of 1988. It wasn’t more than a week before I had seen a striking hand-drawn poster plastered to an abandoned building in Alphabet City showing proletariat fists rising in defiance of police-like figures holding back barking dogs. I remember thinking that I had to meet the person who made this poster. Well, I did. His name was Seth Tobocman and he was an illustrator/artists living in the East Village who was highly involved in social and political movements, something that came through clearly in his art. I was a big fan of Frans Masereel and immediately saw a resemblance in Seth’s work in both style and motivation. I tracked him down after having recognized his bold, graphic style in a local comic/art/zine called World War 3, which I soon found out was published by Seth and his friend and fellow illustrator, Peter Kuper.
Finally, I’m getting these photos up for your viewing pleasure! Some beauties and some real dogs, but all hand-painted and hand-made with love, spite, anger, ecstasy or indifference. Feast your eyes on 189 (for starters!) new-old signs located in and around New York City and get ready for a LOT more from Vietnam, Turkey and elsewhere. View the thumbnail gallery or the slide show. Enjoy!
New Yorkers do pride themselves in having excellent senses of direction. Just get lost anywhere in the city and droves of passers-by will offer you the quickest route to your destination. How will they know you’re lost? You’ll have no doubt unfolded an MTA Subway Map turning it this way and that. And, if you were savvy enough to pick up the May 2008 issue of Men’s Vogue at an NYC newsstand and were lucky enough to get the right copy, then you might be flipping around a 2008 Subway Diagram (re)designed by Massimo Vignelli himself. Vignell designed his first version for the MTA in 1972 and it stood, barring numerous updates and service changes, until 1979 when the MTA unveiled Michael Hertz’s currently and more geographically correct design. Vignelli’s design was often criticized for not being a very good “map,” per se, but he gallantly defended it. “Who cares? You want to go from Point A to Point B, period.” he told the NY Times in a past interview. You’ll notice his 2008 version is called “2008 Subway Diagram,” not “Map.”
If you’re in the NYC area and you haven’t made it to MoMA in a while, now would be the time to do so. Design and the Elastic Mind is a new exhibit which examines how designers of all kinds are exploring advances in science and technology—not to mention the changes in how we both view and relate to the world around us—in order to rethink who we are and how we spend our limited time here on spaceship Earth. This exhibit, which takes a few hours to really soak in, makes it clear that we are on the verge of, if not deeply immersed in, a fundamental leap in our thinking, doing and being. There are sublime examples of how data sources such as internet traffic and prison incarceration-vs.-spending can be visualized in new ways and for new means. The innovative concept of “thinkering” is often evoked in the demonstration of how everyday objects can have uses and lives beyond their original purpose. In many of the projects on display the roles of scientist, inventor and designer are virtually interchangeable though they are mainly presented in the context of design. Even if you do make it to the exhibit I highly recommend spending an afternoon clicking around the wonderful website that MoMA created which reflects the character of the exhibit in its approach to user experience and information design. As a visual designer I was inspired by Design and the Elastic Mind to look beyond the current hype of green and sustainable design and reexamine not only what I do but how and why. I’ll keep you posted on what I discover.
Think you’ve seen it all in NYC? Think again. The folks at Forgotten NY have made a habit of uncovering the less-covered parts of the city for the past eight years. Especially interesting are the lost cemeteries like Mount Zion a Jewish cemetery established in the 1890s in Queens, with its plethora of tombstones containing inlaid enameled photographs of the deceased. Good stuff.