There's a good deal of artistry that goes into designing public transit maps. Landmarks and city centers are enlarged, curves are straightened — all in the service of helping riders make sense of a complex system. John Breznicky and Cayla Ferari take stylized transit to a new level with Lineposters, an alluring and affordable wall art series based on public transportation system maps from around the world.
"The way we envision mass transit in cities, especially the ones that are iconic and known for their mass transit, it's very cultural," says Breznicky. "We thought it was a unique interpretation. It's also an ambiguous piece of artwork. It's something where if you're here, and you're from here, you get it right away, and if you're not from here you'll say, 'what is that, I want to know what it is.'"
Breznicky, an engineer, and Ferari, a graphic designer, made the first Lineposter of New York City back in spring of 2011 simply as a way of decorating their own Manhattan apartment. Visiting friends and family requested posters of their own. Pretty soon Breznicky and Ferari were spending their weekends selling the New York Lineposter at street fairs in public places like Union Square and the High Line.
Since then Lineposters has expanded into a full-time venture for the couple. Earlier this year they moved to Brooklyn and quit their jobs to focus on the business. They now offer 17 Lineposters representing transit systems from Boston to Paris to Tokyo. They've also started a line of T-shirts to go with the 18-by-24-inch posters that sell for under $30.
"The more we were interacting with people and getting feedback, it was obvious people wanted to see more," says Ferari.
Each Lineposter begins with Breznicky and Ferari researching the mass transit system of a prospective city. They look at public transit maps as well as actual geographical rail plans. Some Lineposters are created from a city's subway system alone, but in places where that's not quite enough to provide a full image, such as Philadelphia, they might incorporate commuter rail lines into a composite map.
The result is a piece of art that's reminiscent — but not a traced, to-scale representation — of the city's transit system. Certain lines are spread out, and harsh angles are softened, to make the lines from the system appear more organic, says Ferari. Then the background of the land is dropped out, and all that's left is lines and dots in one solid color set against another. The Lineposters slogan is: mass transit made art.
"It's an artistic interpretation of that transit map," she says. "We're trying to create a new take on it which is independent artwork that's inspired by mass transit."
Each city comes in a variety of colors, as well as a clean black-and-white lithograph version. Breznicky says they receive dozens of emails each week from people who want a city that isn't offered. They also receive lots of orders for three posters from couples who are natives of different cities and relocated together to a new city: two to represent the past, and one to represent the present.
Breznicky says the couple is surprised at the popularity of what started out as a simple idea to fill the walls in their own little place. (Their artwork has been praised in Dwell, Gizmodo, and the Huffington Post.) When asked if they still have Lineposters in their own place, he puts down the phone for a moment and looks around.
"We currently have — I can count for you — six hanging in our living room right now," he says. "So yes, we do."
All images courtesy of John Breznicky and Cayla Ferari at Lineposters.