Earlier this week, NYC’s Metropolitan Transit Authority unveiled the first MetroCard featuring paid front-facing advertisements
. Gone is the familiar bright yellow design and bold block lettering, replaced with patterns and branded taglines like the “Be Bright NYC” logo that appears on Gap’s sponsored card
. It’s a big shift, to be sure, but artists and creative firms are rethinking—and upcycling—the city’s iconic pass in even more imaginative ways.
Brooklyn designer Norman Ibarra
repurposes used MetroCards to capture the link between public transportation, commuters, and pure chance. After spending two years collecting expired cards from subway stops, Ibarra began turning the passes into playing cards
by screen-printing them with enamel ink, an intensive process that takes about eight hours. He gives a nod to NYC by printing the face cards with New York City landmarks, like Times Square, Coney Island, and the Statue of Liberty. The resultant Metrodecks, some of which date back to 2001, act as time capsules that display the evolution of transit pass design.
Metro Card Collages:
For more than ten years, NYC-based artist Nina Boesch
has been collecting and cutting up discarded MetroCards, creating one-of-a-kind works of art that sell for upwards of twenty times the current cost of a monthly pass ($104, at the moment
, though a fare hike is imminent
). She’s made hundreds of collages
, all featuring Big Apple touchstones, like subways, taxis, bridges, and distinguished skyscrapers. Colorful yellow and blue scraps comprise the front sides, while black and white cutouts make up the backs. Nina’s work, which has been featured in exhibits across the country, makes a powerful statement about disposability and the definition of art.
MetroCard Urban Puzzles:
With the MTA’s aforementioned advertising announcement, branding experts are working to conceive more engaging ideas for transforming the transit cards than just slapping on logos. For example, creative consultancy Mayday Mayday Mayday
wants to convert them into a massive “urban puzzle.”
The front of each one would be printed with pixelated elements of a bigger image that, when combined with other cards, could morph into a large-scale collective artistic event, like a scavenger hunt
or crowdsourced billboard
. (The actual ad would be printed on the back.) Among Mayday Mayday Mayday’s other ideas for motivating rider participation is the creation of MetroCard-based political campaign billboards.