Graphic Design Finds its way in a Digital World
Over several decades, the iconic wayfinding designs of the New York Subway and London Underground has become a part of the cultural fabric of the cities they map. The concrete jungle could be just that without the skillful guidance of graphic designers who help make sense of complex civic spaces..
With the recent discovery of the New York City Transit Authority’s “Graphics Standards Manual” for the New York Subway, dating back to 1970, it is clear that impactful graphic design stands the test of time. Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli, designers of the manual, had a clear vision for the role of signage, cautioning, “the subway rider should be given only information at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” Fifty years later, their subway iconography is still a point of civic pride.
As London celebrates the 80th anniversary of its beloved tube map, credit is being given to engineering draftsman Harry Beck. His uncommissioned, spare-time project, was considered “too radical” for not indicating distance between stops, but was quickly embraced by users. Over the decades the tube map has defined people’s sense of the city’s geography.
With the emergence of products like Google Glass, technology is reinventing how we find our way in the world. Google Glass is a wearable technology similar to eye glasses. The glasses project data onto the wearer’s lens, delivering supplemental information, maps, etc. related to the interactions the wearer has with people and environments. Google Glass delivers a revolutionary approach to wayfinding at an intimate, realtime level, tailored for the wearer.
The questions we’ve been asking ourselves is will this next chapter in wayfinding render traditional graphic design approaches obsolete? And will Google Glass capture our hearts and help us navigate our daily lives or lose us along the way?