Michael Hertz passed away at the age of 87. You can be forgiven for not knowing who he was. But if you have lived in New York City, or even visited, you have come into contact with his work almost every day, as the designer of the New York City subway system map, as we see it today.
As a native New Yorker, from the borough of Brooklyn, Hertz had likely experienced the New York City subway system in some of its better days. In the 1970s, his firm, Michael Hertz Associates, was hired by the MTA to redesign the map. Hertz brought together the team – which included a Japanese sculptor and painter, as well as a psychologist – that created the subway map we see today, which included streets, parks, and more realistic urban topography, making it easier and more pleasant for riders to orient themselves in the subway, relative to the above-ground cityscape.
A New Yorker til the end, he passed away on Feb. 18 in New York at Nassau University Medical Center.