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How New York City's Subway Map First Got Its Colors

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Fifty-one years ago, a young lawyer entered a competition to redesign New York City's subway map. At the time, it had only three colors, because the underground network's routes were originally built and operated by three separate companies. The IRT, BMT, and IND lines intersected and and overlapped, so only using three colors made things pretty darn confusing for the amateur subway-goer. So Raleigh D'Adamo entered the 1964 contest, and here's what he proposed, as per expert Peter Lloyd of Metro Map Art:

· Draw each route in its own colour rather than the colour of its original operating company. (Obvious with hindsight, but at the time quite innovative and in fact still had opponents for another ten years.)
· "No dot, no stop"—differentiate local and express services, and draw a station symbol on a line only if that service stops there.This was used as a basic design principle in Massimo Vignelli's map of 1972, and now on the MTA Weekender online map.

· Different routes on the same tracks are shown with alternating squares of colour—this part of the design has never yet been implemented in a finished map product. Lloyd rediscovered D'Adamo's 1964 map, blogged about it, and asked designer Reka Komoli to digitally reconstruct it. The project to reproduce the hand-drawn original took Komoli, working with Lloyd and D'Adamo as consultants, three months. An excerpt of the new version is shown below, with the original above. A complete digital version will be out soon.

Then global subway map guru Max Roberts, he of the concentric-circled version and the geographically-correct Massimo Vignelli revision, caught wind of the project and wrote it up in his newsletter (warning: PDF!).

Lloyd explains D'Adamo's design further in Roberts' newsletter:

Along each trunk carrying multiple routes, he drew two lines—one for local services and one for express services; and he indicated individual routes by alternating coloured squares. For example, Eighth Avenue has two express services (alternating squares of red and green) and three local services (squares of black, blue, and orange). A dot on the express line shows where express services stopped and likewise for the local services. His simple map, lacking station names, proved the principle of colouring the subway network by route, and thereby changed forever how the subway map would be designed. Sadly, his original map disappeared long ago, but last September Raleigh found an old photograph of it—from which Reka Komoli has painstakingly recreated this digital version. It's pretty cool when a half-a-century-old thing resurfaces and gets a modern treatment, no? Does anyone wish this version of the subway map had stuck around?
· 1964 Competition Map Digitally Reconstructed [Metro Map Art]
· Tube Map Central Newsletter: March 2015 [TMC; PDF!]
· How the Subway Map Got Its Colors [NY Sun]