NY Subway Map and Tokens, 1990
Great little slice of history here. The photographer on Flickr seems to recall the cost of a token as being 60 cents at the time; Wikipedia prices it at $1.15.
As a graphic designer, all I can see is the terrible registration in the (cheap) printing — look at the huge yellow halo bleeding out to the right of the green and red printed areas. (In four-colour printing, green is made from combining cyan and yellow inks, red is made from magenta and yellow. When the plates are poorly aligned with each other, the presses run too fast, or cheap paper stretches or moves during the printing process, you get misalignment of the inks, leading to poor registration like this.)
EDIT: As has been pointed out to me, the tokens and the map shown in the photo aren’t contemporaneous. The “solid brass” token shown here was used from 1980 to 1985; during that time, the cost of a subway ride rose from 60 cents to 90 cents. (Source: nycsubway.org’s comprehensive page on subway tokens)
How the WMATA Rush+ Maps Are Printed
Many thanks to Matt Johnson for telling me about this amazing photoset on Flickr that details the process involved in printing the new Rush+ station maps for Washington, DC’s Metro system. Click through to see the whole set!
Even as an experienced graphic designer, I was amazed to see that the maps are screen printed - each colour on the map is printed one after the other, each using a separate screen with its own spot colour ink. With a map as complex as this, that means that there are a whopping twelve different colours to print! These being: river blue, park green, National Mall green, Blue Line, Orange Line, Yellow Line, Green Line, Red Line, Silver Line, District/County border grey, Beltway grey, and finally, black.
I would have thought with the advances in digital printing and stochastic (micro) screening, that these could be produced digitally in one step instead of twelve, but maybe these are special long-lasting UV inks that will withstand many years of use without fading - an important consideration for station maps! In any case, these photos are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a process that many people may not even think about.
EDIT: A tweet from a Metro representative confirms that there are THIRTEEN colours used in the printing: 4 greys (Silver Line, Beltway grey, county border grey, and icon grey), 3 greens (parks, Mall, Green Line), 2 Blues (river, Blue Line), Black, Red, Yellow and Orange.