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Here in New York City, the MTA regularly reminds us subway riders of certain dangers in the system. Using posters featuring simple Helvetica text and sometimes stick figure illustrations, they warn us against things like riding outside the train, and venturing onto the tracks

From the mid-'70s through the early '80s, the Toyko subway system also used posters to remind riders of the rules, except these featured super heroes, Hitler, aliens, Santa Claus, even Jesus Christ. The posters warned against more specific, but possibly annoying, behavior. Aliens told riders to not read newspapers too widely, Hitler and Charlie Chaplin illustrated the evils of spreading your legs too far apart while sitting, Jesus told you not to forget your umbrella, and Santa Claus reminded riders at the holidays not to get drunk and pass out on the train. [Images and translations from Retronaut via WFMU]


"Don't forget your umbrella." (October 1981) The text at the top of this poster—which shows Jesus overwhelmed with umbrellas at the Last Supper—reads "Kasane-gasane no kami-danomi" (lit. "Wishing to God again and again"). The poster makes a play on the words "kasa" (umbrella) and "kasane-gasane" (again and again).

"The Seat Monopolizer" (July 1976) Inspired by Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, this poster encourages passengers not to take up more seat space than necessary.

"You've had too much to drink." (October 1976) This poster of a drinking Santa is addressed to the drunks on the train. The text, loosely translated, reads: "I look like Santa because you've had too much to drink. It's only October. If you drink, be considerate of the other passengers."

Some of us like a contrast between urban grit and city chic, some well-worn infrastructure with our tony brownstones. We like seeing the logo of the local metropolitan transit authority on strange buildings tucked away between alleys and elevated trains. Then there are those of us more sensitive to preserving the "charm" of upscale city hoods or maintaining their historic aesthetic. It seems the transport authorities fall into the latter category in several instances, at least in the case of the fake townhouses exposed in New York, London, and Paris on messynessychic.com today, one of which is even cited in an Umberto Eco novel. All three were devised to hide air shafts for underground trains.

Know of any other fake townhouses? We'd like to hear from you.

Oddly enough, it was a Chicago-based firm which issued the official Graphics Standards Manual for the New York City Subway system in 1970. The visual identity presented by Massimo Vignelli of Unimark International is in many minds the most iconic visual identity for a transit system in the world. Thanks to the efforts of Niko Skourtis, Jesse Reed, and Hamish Smyth the manual is now available to explore in digital form

The manual itself is small in stature, but exhaustive. It contains the elements you'd expect: the ubiquitous circular letters and numbers and nine chosen colors, but it also contains a few entries explaining Vignelli's beliefs about civic design. The best example is probably his "information tree," meant to simulate a rider's experience using the signage system. At the very top, Vignelli includes the surprisingly strict design guideline, "The subway rider should only be given information at the point of decision. Never before. Never after."

Learn more about Vignelli's vision at StandardsManual.com