This year, film-maker Gary Hustwit – known for films such as “Helvetica”, “Objectified” and “Rams” – had the pleasure of following the agency Work & Co. as they redesigned New York City’s digital subway map. The resulting ten-minute documentary film “The Map” outlines the approach and traces the process at Work & Co as they developed and created a new “live map”. The new digital cartography builds on two different methods from the system’s history and succeeds in combining them using digital zoom functions. On the one hand is the legendary 1972 diagram created by Massimo Vignelli and Joan Charysyn with a geometric design and largely abstract approach to geographical information, which was modern and controversial in equal measure. On the other was the approach from John Tauranac, who produced a new map in 1979 with direct references to roads, rivers and other landmarks.
The film briefly explores the controversy around Vignelli’s map and shows previously unpublished pictures taken by photographer Stan Ries of the subway map debate between Vignelli and Tauranac in 1978. However, its main focus is on how the latest digital technology and careful design can simplify and reproduce one of the world’s most complex transit systems. The team produced a digital map showing train movements with real-time updates to help New Yorkers and tourists better plan their journeys. The live map project was started before the coronavirus pandemic and Work & Co. are providing it to the city for free. According to Hustwit, this prompted Christopher Bonanos to write the following of the project in New York Magazine: “In this dire year for New York City and its transit system, this digital launch is a rare moment of things looking up.” die Dinge zum Besseren wenden.“