Fast Company

MTA Scraps Plans for New Subway Pictograms [UPDATED]

Mies Hora's 90-icon set get tossed in the face of a $750 million budget shortfall.

subway signs

Earlier this month we mentioned Mies Hora's pictogram set for the MTA (featuring a new, international exit sign). Well, bad news for those, like Slate's Julia Turner, hoping for the makeover: Facing a $750 million budget deficit, the MTA scrapped the project. According to the Post:

Instead, transit employees will refresh old icons -- for example, by changing the background from black to blue on handicapped-accessible pictures -- and install the new ones only during major rehabs.

Hora was hired by the MTA to analyze their current signage, propose a redesign, and mock it up at Jamaica Station. (He explains his work in this video, which we're not allowed to embed--bear with the poor audio and image quality.) What he discovered was no surprise to anyone who's been on a subway: The signs suck. The MTA uses only five pictograms consistently, one of which is the handicapped access symbol, which they usually use to mean "elevator." The problem is, they use dozens of different versions of it. (Hora recommended using only one, and using it in blue--so at least the MTA is following some of his advice.) Then there are the totally illogical signs, like ones telling you to run towards the fire. Plus, they're very wordy (few pictograms) and all in English. So Hora designed 90 new pictograms, including ones for fire safety, cell-phone use, and keeping a safe distance from incoming trains. Thanks to the MTA's tiny budget, Watch the Gap signs won't get any less confusing, but then again, there will be fewer trains running to watch out for.

subway sign

UPDATE:In a perfect coincidence, the NYPD arrested legendary Bowery antiques store owner Billy Leroy on Saturday for selling MTA signs of dubious provenance (the very signs pictured in the photo above!). He's back at work, but the signs are gone.

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