Hacking the NYC Subway-Ryan Murphy-RISD-86th Street Subway Signs-Image via Ryan Murphy/Hacking the NYC Subway

We’ve all experienced that moment of disorientation as we head out of the subway: are we facing east, north, south or west? Is that an avenue or a street? Ryan Murphy, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, has taken it upon himself to enhance New York City civic environment through a series of semi-permanent signs he’s installed on the staircases coming out of subway entrances.

Hacking the NYC Subway-Ryan Murphy-RISD-86th Street Subway Signs-2

After prototyping various options, Murphy tells Untapped Cities, he settled on these simple black and white signs in that recognizable Helvetica font, introduced to the New York City subway system by Massimo Vignelli. He’s done an initial (illegal) installation at the 86th Street/Lexington Avenue subway station.

We asked Murphy about the reactions he’s seen and he says, “I think the best reactions for me have come through emails from people who live in the direct area. People have talked about the simple, clear design (which really provides two pieces of information, the direction you are facing and the street you would hit if you kept walking straight) being incredibly helpful for both everyday New Yorkers as well as tourists.”

Hacking the NYC Subway-Ryan Murphy-RISD-86th Street Subway SignsImage via Ryan Murphy/Hacking the NYC Subway

We also asked him what the next steps in his project are: “The next step is releasing a more comprehensive list of what signs would go where along the rest of the 4,5,6 line, as multiple people have reached out to replicate the project. Though I don’t see the MTA implementing this solution in the near future, I hope there is a recognition that we should keep rethinking how we navigate the subway and where helpful information is needed.”

Catch them before they’re taken down (or maybe the MTA will like them and let them stay…). Read about 100 other subway hacks by another student, this time from NYU.