The Great Subway Map War of 1978, revisited

For those too young to remember, the Great Subway Map War of 1978 pitted two schools of New York mapmaking nerds against each other in a heated debate in the Great Hall of Manhattan’s Cooper Union. In one corner were supporters of Italian graphic designer Massimo Vignelli’s modernist, diagrammatic map of New York City’s transit system. In the other, those who preferred John Tauranac and his Subway Map Committee’s more geographic version. Insults were traded. Colors were debated. (Was Central Park green enough? Was the East River blue enough? Since when was the East River blue?) Massimo, whose 1972 map thrilled design enthusiasts but mostly confused the public, said Tauranac's map made him want to "puke," and later thanked the moderator for helping him suppress “homicidal urges” toward his cartographical foes.

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