Vignelli’s NYC Subway Map as a Children’s Book

Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 New York City Subway Map is well remembered both as a beautiful example of modernist design and as a notorious victim of public short-sightedness. I tend to think it’s a bit overpraised and the fact that it was largely deemed unusable by the public has been too conveniently written off by its fans.

That said, its hallowed reputation amongst design fans continues to grow. Now Milan-based author and illustrator Emiliano Ponzi has nudged it further towards mythological status with a children’s book that tells how it came to be. The book uses warm, painterly illustrations that playfully illustrate the challenges that Vignelli faced, while also squeezing in a gentle introduction to design problem solving and the principles of modernism. Sample spreads:

To learn more about the book, you can read Steven Heller’s brief appraisal at You can also see some of the original illustrations, free of copywriting, in this Behance project. And of course you can buy a copy for the young modernist in your life at Amazon.