Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ten Point Scale: Stick-figure Graphics on the NYC Subway

Tonight, thanks to AIGA/NY, some of the great designers behind the famous system of graphics in the New York City subway will gather to discuss the past, present, and future of that project. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend that event. As a concession, I’m adding my voice to the discussion via today’s Ten Point Scale.

I’ll be ranking the subway’s Stick-figure-centric Info Graphics, based on their aesthetic merits and their success (or lack thereof) as easily read icons. And just for fun, look for alternative interpretations of the graphics.

Also, a quick reminder that 10 is the Pr*ttiest and 1 is the Sh*ttiest. And check out the first installment of the Ten Point Scale, in case you missed it.

10. No riding or moving between cars
In the context of where this is, it communicates pretty well what it’s supposed to.
Alternative interpretation:
No Levitating Between Cars

9. Emergency Evacuation
This stands out for being from Otl Aicher’s classic library of icons. That also means it doesn’t really match the rest of the icons used by the MTA.
Alternative interpretation:
Run from the giant feathers, you ticklish son-of-a-bitch!

8. Please No Littering
Nobody litters in this exact pose, but somehow this communicates its message pretty well.
Alternative interpretation:
Lackluster demonstrations of telekinesis are forbidden.

7. Intercom Instructions
Another one that works well in context. The drawing has a decent correlation to the actual intercom interface.
Alternative interpretation:
If your fingers are too fat, activate the intercom with your heat breath.

6. Watch the Gap
The drawing could be better. And the gap is a little over-exaggerated. But all in all this works fine.
Alternative interpretation:
Those carrying elephant tusks will be thrown from the train.

5. Follow Instructions From the Train Crew
This sits right in the middle of the scale because it shouldn’t work (MTA uniforms look nothing like this, nor do crossing guards magically appear during an emergency), but it does.
Alternative interpretation:
Welcome to the cult, brother. This way to collect your belt and sash.

4. Do Not Hold the Doors
Now the drawings are starting to get really bad. But in context, this still kind of works.
Alternative interpretation:
Shortening your arms to match your neck is prohibited.

3. Do Not Lean On Door
Another bad drawing, and only marginally understandable in context. Extra demerits for having some of the most outrageously terrible typography ever (I’m dying for someone to come forward and explain how this got this way).
Alternative interpretation:
No stacking of mannequin parts against the stripper pole.

2. Please Offer a Seat
This drawing is pretty terrible, which negates most of its already limited success as an info graphic.
Alternative interpretation:
(Or is that the Carlton?)

1. Please Don’t Hold the Doors
The red-headed stepchild of number 2.
Alternative interpretation:
Please stand aside to allow The Flash to catch the closing doors.
(Or is that the Human Torch?)


  1. alternate alternative interpretation for #1:
    Wait your turn to boogie through the doors.

  2. God I wish I had heat breath. Probably wouldn't need an intercom either, just breathe your way to safety.

  3. None of this is even remotely funny. In fact, I'm almost embarrassed for you since you apparently thought it was so funny that it should be shared with the world.

    Please don't procreate. You're dumb.

  4. #7 Alternative interpretation: Breathe here for your breathalyzer results :)

  5. Quote:
    None of this is even remotely funny. In fact, I'm almost embarrassed for you since you apparently thought it was so funny that it should be shared with the world. Please don't procreate. You're dumb.

    Mom? Are you leaving anonymous comments again? You rascally troll!

  6. Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 - get a sense of humor. These are hilarious!

  7. I've always wondered about the "Do not lean on door sign too" WTF is goin gon there. The o are sideways and thats only the beginning!

  8. I've always laughed how #4, the "Do Not Hold Doors" drawing, is a little kid according to the door windows. He's around 4.5 feet tall.