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The Undervalued Simplicity of Bob Noorda's Vision for Milan's Metro

Transit officials haven’t given his first metro project the respect it deserved.
Bob Noorda striking a pose inside one of his Milan Line 1 stations.
Bob Noorda striking a pose inside one of his Milan Line 1 stations.Moleskine

Thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Bob Noorda’s most successful U.S. project, the New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual that he and Massimo Vignelli completed in 1970, has reached a new generation of designers and transit enthusiasts. But before Noorda helped fixed New York’s mess of a subway system, he designed Milan’s from scratch.

The Amsterdam-born designer moved to Milan in 1954 as a 27-year-old. There, he developed dozens of unforgettable visual identities for mostly Italian clients including tire makers, gas companies, magazines, and grocery stores. Just before he formed Unimark International with Vignelli in 1965, Noorda was asked by architect Franco Albini to help design a wayfinding system for the subway he was building.