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designer: bob noorda

Bob Noorda died this month. Noorda is the graphic designer who helped us navigate the New York subway system so seamlessly.

From the New York Times obit ““Don’t bore the public with mysterious designs,” Mr. Noorda once said, and he put that dictum into practice. He was a master of spare, elegant and logical designs that caught the eye …”

“I remember when Bob came to New York and spent every day underground in the subway to record the traffic flow in order to determine the points of decision where the signs should be placed,” Mr. Vignelli [his business partner] said in an interview.

The existing signs they encountered were cluttered with various typefaces of different sizes.

“Their system was a mess,” Mr. Noorda was quoted as saying in “Unimark International: The Design of Business and the Business of Design” (Lars Müller), a recently published book by Jan Conradi. “Sometimes pieces of paper taped to the wall were the only indication for the station.”

He and Mr. Vignelli set about standardizing the type family to make sure that the signs were cleaner and clearer; they settled on Helvetica, originally a Swiss design known for its sans serif economy and sterility, against a white background. Mr. Noorda worked on every detail, from typeface selection to color coding.

He “had a very systematic mind,” Mr. Vignelli said, adding that “his work was extremely civilized.”

Via the New York Times.

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