Take a Ride Through History with Emiliano Ponzi's Newest Book
It’s hard to get lost in NYC: the city is set up on a grid. Just follow the numbers! The subway system, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. A jumble of tubes skate all over the five boroughs, changing direction and trajectory as they go along. It takes a real expert to navigate the subway by memory. But if you’re not an expert, you’re in luck: Massimo Vignelli oversaw an amazing map of the subway system between 1970 and 1972. Emiliano Ponzi was so charmed by the artist and the story that he created a book that examines the process of creating the map. The book is called ‘The Great New York Subway Map’ and it’s filled with illustrations by Emiliano that take cues from Vignelli’s work. “He has a very clear idea of what was good and what wasn’t good, aesthetically speaking. And he wrote this book that I really love called ‘The Vignelli Canon,’ where he stated all his guidelines he gave himself regarding his graphic designer aesthetic,” Emiliano explains. “So what I like about working on this project is I was able to apply the same principals as Massimo told in his book.”
Emiliano’s aesthetic is obviously his own, but when telling the story of Vignelli’s work, he went the extra distance to emulate Vignelli’s style. It wasn’t just the work of aesthetics, but ultimately became about process and seeing differently. “What I tried to do was to design every image at least five or six times so every time I redesigned one illustration I was about to rationally think about if I needed the details, maybe I could take a detail out,” Emiliano says. “So that was like the biggest challenge and also a very hard one… This is a little more minimalist than my usual style.” Vignelli’s subway map took an incredible complex transportation apparatus and turned it into an easy to read map that could fit in your pocket. The only way to do that is distill, distill, distill and Emiliano brought that to each page of his book.
MoMA invited Emiliano to help them host an Art Making get together at the Design Store for kids to get creative. For Emiliano, this partnership with MoMA is something of a dream come true. He used to walk the galleries in wonder and now counts the museum as a collaborator. “Looking at the museum three years ago when I used to work on 53rd street, and now I have another feeling because now I have a deeper connection,” he describes. “I’m very excited, I’m also excited because I also feel responsibility to pass a good message to children.”
His best message to pass onto the children? It’s okay to be confused, especially when creating art. “Being confused is normal because we can find order out of chaos. So being in a chaotic situation is also sometimes useful to come up with a good idea or a good project.”
‘The Great New York Subway Map’ is available for purchase now.