The Standards Manual story

It started, as so many things do, in a basement. In this case, it was the basement at the eminent design firm Pentagram, on Fifth Avenue in Flatiron, where a mouldering graphic design artifact would become an unlikely indie publishing sensation. The book was the implementation guide for the signage of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, designed by Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda at Unimark in 1970 with its Swiss-style typography and memorable circular letter route designations. To the young designers who flipped through its discarded pages underneath the corporate identity design giant in twenty-first century Manhattan, it appeared as a kind of urtext, a Dead Sea Scroll of modern graphic design. Two young designers at Pentagram — Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed — who both happened to work with Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, a Vignelli alumnus, felt the need to share this sunken treasure. They hastily built a website that displayed each spread of the manual, and it attracted enough attention to convince them to pursue an audacious reprint project. With the help of Kickstarter and one Alex Daly, the design imprint Standards Manual was born.