Bob Noorda, Helveti-Master, Dies at Age 82


Dutch designer Bob Noorda, who, with Massimo Vignelli, designed the official look of New York’s subway system, died earlier this month at the age of 82. If you’re obsessed with Helvetica, or suffering from fatigue thereof, you can probably blame Noorda, who modernized the MTA with an iconic visual language using the sans-serif font. Not only does his work direct the traffic flow of around 5.2 million subway riders daily, but he’s also been collected by MoMA and credited with injecting Modernist thinking into the corporate world as an “early proponent of unified branding.” More words and pictures on Noorda, after the jump.

One of Noorda’s most famous maxims was “Don’t bore the public with mysterious designs.” Seeing as how his MTA signage from 1966 is still in use today, we’d mark that one as a win.

Noorda co-founded Unimark design studio in 1965 with Italian designer Massimo Vignelli and a group of other American and European designers, initially setting up shop in Chicago and Milan. As the New York Times notes, “Theirs was among the first international design firms to base their work on the Modernist principle that a good design could have a positive effect on all aspects of life, not just on business.”

A selection of corporate identity work below:

Identities for (clockwise, from top left) Pirelli, Biennale di Venezia, Agip, and the Milan Metro, never implemented.

Additional notes on Noorda at Fast Company.