About a year and a half ago, I asked if graphic design could help the beleaguered MTA, New York City’s transit company which operates the massive subway system that helps the metropolis function. Long story short, I redesigned the service advisory posters, which were terrible at the time.

Then-current MTA posters My proposed re-design
MTA advisory posters (left) and my proposed re-design

But as it happens, the MTA did re-design their service posters, and the new sheets and signs are being tacked up around stations throughout the city.

New MTA Posters
The new MTA posters

The crappy photo doesn’t really show it, but there was a decisive new style at work evident across multiple media. No longer are we going for the Metrocard-inspired design mode. While I don’t claim credit for black text on white paper, I have to say, these do look rather like my concept. But of course the goofy time and date formats persist.

There’s also something new that seeks to help riders navigate the woes and pitfalls of city transit. Today, we are introduced to SAID, the Station Advisory Information Displays. These are, in short, big flat-panel monitors posted at select stations displaying whether (and how severely) disrupted the various train lines are.

MTA's new SAID

According to an article on Gothamist:

Subway lines and train service status information are on one side on the screen, and when “Good Service” status is indicated, nothing is displayed on the right side of the screen. But if a status of “Service Change,” “Delay”, or “Planned Work” is shown, as indicated by a red circle next to the operating lines, an explanation is provided on the other side of the screen.

At first, I have to applaud this effort for it’s functionality. Very useful. Anything to ease the process of vaguely seeking out train info via mobile phones, oddly-worded posters, and *gasp* talking to those fools in the booth. But from a design point, this definitely could have been better. First off, I would have inverted the colours, using the familiar white-against-black scheme that is more common in the Subway. It’s just easier on the eyes, and can be more easily seen from a distance. While I’m sure the flat panel monitors will be upgraded/repaired every now and then, displaying that much white tends draw attention to the faults and flaws. (I doubt it, but if those were OLED screens, then using a black scheme would actually save energy, but that’s another matter altogether).

One has to wonder why New York hasn’t taken a cue from London, and simply used a dry-erase board to keep riders updated, with negligible delay, as to the status of the lines. Since the MTA’s Chief used to work for The London Underground, you’d think that would be a first step. But I guess we love technology, especially in the midst of massive, massive debt.

Tube Status Tube Status
How London keeps track of the Tube

Unfortunately, I have no suggestions about how to handle the Second Avenue Subway and construction of the T line. Just hurry up and finish it.

via Gothamist »