Remembering Bob Noorda
Internationally acclaimed graphic designer Bob Noorda died last month in Milan, his adopted city. Along with Massimo Vignelli and their firm, Unimark International, he helped introduce a unified, Modernist look that eventually featured the ubiquitous Helvetica typeface to the entire New York City subway system.
To inform his designs, Noorda spent everyday in the subway, systematically recording traffic patterns to determine where signs should be placed based on where riders were making decisions.
Steve Heller’s noteable New York Times obituary states that Noorda and Vignelli’s firm, Unimark International, was one of the first to embrace the Modernist principle that a good design could have a positive effect on all aspects of life, not just on business. Knowing the wayfinding system that Noorda created for the MTA more than 40 years ago still assists 5.2 million riders in navigating around NYC every day is testament to this belief.
For more info about Helvetica typeface and the history of NYC subway signs, see the AIGA’s fascinating, in-depth article: The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway.
This article references the 2007 absolutely-must-see documentary, Helvetica, by director Gary Hustwit.