You’ll never find a New Yorker in a New York City souvenir shop, unless they’re working there. Otherwise, what would a New Yorker be doing perusing a pair of “I Love NY Lounge Pants” ($17.99); an “I Love NY Tablecloth Party Decoration” ($4.99); or a “Times Square Replica Subway Sign” ($39.99)? Does a New Yorker need to be reminded about the existence of Times Square via a large sign in her living room? Does anyone?
For New Yorkers, the essential problem with NYC memorabilia is that we don’t need to house an exact, smaller replica of something that already exists in our own city. Tourists, on the other had, like to take the tiny replica back home with them as a memento—thus, the closer it looks to the real-life statute, sign, or building, the better. (A Statue of Liberty magnetic bottle opener that looks kind of like the Statue of Liberty for $4.99? I’ll take it!)
It’s possible, however, to design the rare NYC-related item that appeals to both the seasoned New Yorker and the enthralled tourist—a clever, well-made work of art that isn’t just a piece of memorabilia, but something that makes you stop and think about your own city. And, Brooklyn-based duo (and couple) Alex Daly and Hamish Smyth have done just that with their ‘New York City Subway‘ poster. It’s elegant; it’s neat; and it has all 468 stations arranged in alphabetical order, with all of the transfers.
We caught up with Daly and Smyth recently to learn more about the project and to find out what it is that they love about the New York City subway system.
Daly is the founder of Vann Alexandra, a client services agency that so far has a 100% success rate getting projects funded on Kickstarter and Indiegogo (and, thus, has been dubbed the “crowdsourceress”). She shares an apartment in Fort Greene (“across the street from the BAM Harvey Theater”) with Smyth, a designer at Pentagram who first created the ‘New York City Subway’ poster over a year ago as a passion project, then printed it, and hung it in their apartment. When friends kept asking where they could buy one, Daly and Smyth decided to take the project world-wide—via Kickstarter.
With just four days left in the campaign, they’ve raised $150,475 of their initial $29,800 goal (at the time of this writing), which is an incredible amount that made them not only the most funded poster in Kickstarter history, but also will have them shipping close to three thousand posters all over the world.
From the original design, Smyth created three different editions, which all have slightly different specs and will be printed in Italy or New York—the New York posters, “The Silkscreen Edition,” will be done by artist Alexander Heinrici, who once printed for Andy Warhol.
So, we asked Daly and Smyth the important questions:
Which subway lines do you take to work?
Daly: I take the G train to the Greenpoint Avenue stop, and Hamish takes the Q train to Flat Iron.
What is your favorite subway system in the world?
Daly: I don’t know if I can say anything other than New York—I love the New York City subway. I have lived here for five and a half years, and it’s such a part of my life. But I also really do love the London Underground.
Smyth: This is a biased answer: New York City!
What makes a good subway sign?
Daly: As a non-designer, I think what makes a good sign is the clarity of it. When you go to the subway as a New Yorker, you’re running from the place to place to get there. The important thing is the clarity so you don’t have to stop and stare to figure it out.
Smyth: Just the right amount of information at just the right time.
As someone who has ridden the NYC subway for 5 and a half years, do you have a “pro tip” for people about to use it for the first time?
Daly: I would say if you see that a car is empty, it’s empty for a reason and don’t go inside of it. [laughs] There’s never been an empty train car so if there is one, something bad is going on in there.
What is the best subway station in the MTA system?
Daly: I think Grand Central is the best station. I know it’s more of an establishment for a lot of other things going on, but it’s such a relic and such a beautiful place. It’s nice to just go there and walk around because of its history, architecture, and design. It’s such an iconic New York station.
Smyth: I’ve not visited them all, but I’m a big fan of any stations that are directly beneath the streets. I love how you can be on the street one minute and in a platform the next. Compare this to some London tube stations that resemble a rabbit warren.
If you could add one thing to the current NYC subway system, what would it be?
Daly: Definitely WiFi. I can’t believe that there’s not WiFi on the subway. I know a lot of other subway systems around the rest of the world have WiFi, so i think we’re a bit behind on that.
Smyth: Air conditioning!