Infographic Of The Day: A Map Of NYC's Design Scene

Pentagram's Luke Hayman riffs off of Massimo Vignelli's iconic subway map to create a chart of key figures in New York's design network, both past and present.

Pentagram partner Luke Hayman has designed a clever little guide to New York designers. Done up like Massimo Vignelli’s iconic NYC subway map, it assigns "subway stops" to key figures in the city’s design network, both past and present, from Sagmeister Inc. to the late ad-industry pioneer Helmut Krone to, yes, Pentagram itself, which, incidentally is just four stops away from Vignelli on the blue line, heading toward William Golden.

[Click to view larger. What does Vignelli think of the homage? "Actually he was the first to tweet it!" Hayman says.]

You’ll note that the subway lines look nothing like those of the original map. Instead, they converge and diverge, oddly, into the shape of an ampersand. The reason: The map was a project for the Amsterdam-based interior design magazine Eigen Huis & Interieur (EH&I). Each month, the magazine taps a creative studio to design its logo, an ampersand, on a page that leads into the feature well; EH&I invited Pentagram for a recent issue about New York. "Our team brainstormed and this was one of the ideas we loved," Hayman tells Co.Design. "Of course it’s a little reminiscent of The Great Bear by Simon Patterson—his play on the London Underground map—but we felt ours was different enough."

The ampersand is the only organizing feature here. Designers are not, for instance, arranged according to their offices’ location. (And there you were thinking Pentagram was so unhip as to have headquarters on the Upper East Side.) "We did try all sorts of systems—each line being a different discipline and geographically based but we couldn’t get it to work," Hayman says. "So we just mixed it all up. The type is very small in the printed version and we’re assuming most of the names will be unknown in The Netherlands so decided the big idea was enough."

As for how designers got picked: Initially, Hayman and his team gathered names by researching professional organizations and awards, but quickly realized that they couldn’t fit everyone on the page. So began what Hayman calls "the ruthless cutting process." First, they invoked a few rules: entire disciplines got tossed, as did companies that aren’t headquartered in New York City. "Then it became totally corrupt," he says. "It comes down to a list of F.O.P.s (Friends of Pentagram)—a list of our buddies. I know we left out so many great people so we’ll have to do a second edition sometime."

[Images courtesy of Pentagram]

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  • Jacob Wells

    It's pretty, but as an info-graphic it sucks big-time! It's misleading, it doesn't allow me to make discoveries about the information presented, and it doesn't even fully encompass the design community in NYC.

    Design Mega-fail!

    PS This definitely did not warrant an article on FastCoDesign.  

  • Tim Parsons

    It would seem you've done Pentagram rather a disservice by calling this an Infographic. As their description states, it's a response to design an ampersand that has a New York theme. It's now being attacked for not being effective at a job it was never designed to do, i.e. provide legible information beyond a list of names. For those seeking a more thorough version a similar idea, check out Ben Hughes' Underground map for Central Saint Martins MA Industrial Design course which separates genres of practitioners into different lines and prompts interesting interesting thoughts about what happens at the intersections!

  • JB

    Im all up for design in every form, this deserves to be better represented in an other media such as after effects - maybe some form of 3d moving graphic, hey what the hell throw in a moving sub and a hot dog stand. :)

  • brendangbaker

    Why is it that every 6 months someone does a subway map takeoff and people think it's clever? I guess it is if there's strong underlying meaning/value, but this subway map fetish thing among the deisgn community is getting tired.

  • Marilyn Washington

    So the design studios are plotted on a map but aren't mapped to their true location? The colors mean nothing, and are arbitrary? Design fail.  You probably should have left off the geographic location, we would have still got the mappy context without expecting it to actually correspond. This is pointless and useless. You left off a lot of firms Frog but no Ideo? Where is HUGE?

  • Jon

    I guess I dont understand why they are all randomly placed with not purpose whatsoever  Using the map as an idea doesnt seem to do anything here... So all I'm seeing here is a list of businesses that exist in NYC, that is harder to understand than a list itself...

  • Jason Bateman

    WRONG!! what facts point to this? (Jane) why should we ever cringe at design if your heart is in it? Our opinions should always carry a positive message but at the same time raise arguments/debates.  I think its a nice testament to the ever growing design community that NYC should and is proud of.  However I will agree that they missed an opportunity to do something different. (nothing is original) I wish Newcastle (UK) had an equally impressive design community. 

  • Jane


    This design just shows Pentagram's view of the NY design scene is self serving, and indulgent, perpetuated by back patting friends of friends.

    A missed opportunity to do something original and interesting.

  • Ricardo Codoba

    I like the small detail in the upper right corner... "New York City Design Authority," with a red "P" (for Pentagram) replacing the MTA logo!

  • Jason Bateman

    I do like this,( i actually love it) however is it essential to raise arguments about the design, notably the legitimacy of the colours used? These are colours of main lines red, blue etc.. that would normally be found on standard (London Underground/New york sub) maps.  I feel this is almost a regurgitation of design. I would of challenged these using more urban colours such as dark greens, greys, terra cotta etc to highlight it isnt a tube map when you look at it???

  • Fred Kahl


    I love that Funny Garbage made it in, but we should be in Coney Island... just sayin! ;)