michael hertz, the designer whose firm produced the new york city subway map, has died aged 87. the map by hertz’s firm, a version of which is still used today, was commissioned to replace the previous design by massimo vignelli. hertz designed and developed the map on a committee that also included john tauranac and members of the new york transit authority.

michael hertz
poster, prototype for new york city subway map, 1978; designed by michael hertz associates (new york, new york, USA); USA; offset lithograph on white wove paper; 70.5 × 57.8 cm (27 3/4 × 22 3/4 in.); gift of unknown donor; 1987-24-1 | image courtesy of cooper hewitt



in the map’s 1978 prototype, shown above, hertz added the names of new york streets and landmarks, which had been absent from vignelli’s design. however, in this version, hertz kept vignelli’s colors as circular bullets, but rendered all subway lines in red. as users found this confusing, later iterations — as well as today’s map (shown below) — use a ‘trunk line’ color coding system, with one color assigned to each avenue of operation.

michael hertz, designer of new york city's subway map, dies at 87
the new york city subway map that is in use today



CNN reports that hertz died of natural causes on february 18, 2020 at nassau university medical center in east meadow, new york. ‘in transit map circles, mike was a giant,’ says chuck gordanier, the chief of marketing and advertising for the new york metropolitan transportation authority. ‘all new yorkers carry some image of mike’s subway map in their heads.’