The Process: Printing a Book

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In the 1960's, the signage within the NYC subway system was a total mess. The Transit Authority hired a design firm to come up with a solution, and thus the Graphics Standards Manual was born. It was a 3-ring binder loaded with pages that would dictate every minute detail of transit signage moving forward. Only so many copies were made, and most of them were ultimately lost or destroyed.

Not long ago, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth discovered an original copy of the Graphics Standards Manual in a gym locker. They scanned it, shared the scans online, and the site became so popular that they decided to reissue the manual as a hardcover book. We asked Jesse and Hamish to give us some background, and explain the process of printing a book.

    1. Pamela J Goodwin

      I am one of the lucky people who participated in this campaign and the book is absolutely gorgeous.

    2. Missing avatar

      JohnUnger on

      Wow that's truly amazing! Do you know any places where I can purchase this book? I would love to share it with my friends at

    3. Catherine Todd on

      Yes, I would love to actually see this book and hold it in my hands. Who were the original designers or design firm who created this book back in the '60's? Are they still around? I would love to hear a discussion from them as well. Well done!

    4. Catherine Todd on

      Ah, found the answer to my "who is the designer" question clicking on the link in the description. Here's a small excerpt:

      "In 1967 the New York City Transit Authority hired Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of the design firm Unimark International to design a signage and wayfinding system that would solve the problem underground.

      The work they delivered, the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual, succeeded in that goal and, perhaps unintentionally, the Standards Manual became one of the world’s classic examples of modern design." ... more

      wish I had known about this project and could have afforded to help fund the book ($98 for a copy). Now I am hoping to be able to "view the scans online." Link above, and here I go! Wish me luck!

    5. Catherine Todd on

      Oh, yes, the scans and info is marvelous!

      "New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual

      Designed by Unimark International
      New York 1970

      This site is dedicated to serve as an archival record of a first edition NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual designed
      by Massimo Vignelli of Unimark International. The manual was found in
      a locker beneath old gym clothes. Roll over the images to magnify. Enjoy.

      Brought to you by the collective efforts of
      Niko Skourtis
      Jesse Reed
      Hamish Smyth

      ... more

    6. Catherine Todd on

      Unimark International - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      Unimark International was an international design firm headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. ... The graphic style of Unimark's projects was decidedly modernist.

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