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MTA Arts & Design Awarded Gold Medal for Jillian Tamaki’s ‘Platform’ Graphic

Cropped section from "Platform" by Jillian Tamaki for MTA Arts & Design

A musician hurrying to his next gig, clutching his keyboard as he dashes down the stairs. A woman waiting pensively for the subway after a day of shopping. A woman catching her breath after just making it onto the train. Could it be you? In Jillian Tamaki’s “Platform,” it could be anyone.

Tamaki’s comic strip-inspired artwork commissioned by MTA Arts & Design, “Platform,” has captured the imaginations of millions of New Yorkers who have seen it in subway cars in 2016, and now it has captured a top prize among professional illustrators: a gold medal in Advertising for 2016 from the Society of Illustrators. “Platform” was chosen from among thousands of submissions worldwide for the society’s annual competition, Illustrators 59, by a jury of professional illustrators, art directors and designers. An exhibition at SOI featuring the winning artwork opened to the public during a celebration on Friday, January 6.

MTA Arts & Design commissioned Tamaki to create a transit-related graphic artwork for its popular Art Card program, which installs graphic art in the horizontal interior-facing panels inside hundreds of subway cars. Tamaki, an illustrator and a graphic novelist, came up with an illustration in a comic strip format to show the passage of time as customers enter a subway station platform and board an arriving train. “Platform” features a cast of characters starting their subway commute, each portraying different states of mind such as anticipation, boredom, stress and excitement. She was inspired by the people who take MTA’s trains, particularly New Yorkers, and hoped that customers would see a little bit of themselves in “Platform.”

"Working on the art card was one of the most meaningful projects I've ever worked on. Not a week went by when I didn't receive an email from or was tagged in a tweet or photo of the poster by complete strangers, New Yorkers and tourists alike. It was profoundly gratifying to hear people say a particular character in the image reminded them of themselves, a friend or loved one. Or that it provided enough visual interest for a year's worth of subway rides from Ditmas Park to Midtown," Tamaki said.

“We love commissioning art that captures the imagination of people of all ages. Jillian’s cartoon illustrates the life cycle of the commuter on the subway platform and our riders recognize themselves in it. It is an honor for this work to be selected by a jury of peers that include world-famous illustrators and design professionals.  It’s particularly rewarding to know that the work we do has a positive impact on the daily life of millions of our fellow New Yorkers,” said Amy Hausmann, Deputy Director of MTA Arts & Design.

“The art cards are extremely popular with customers. They are at eye level and add an element of fun and visual interest to the daily journey throughout the year. We have an excellent collection of eye-catching graphics artworks this year,” said Lydia Bradshaw, manager of the graphics program.

“Platform” is available to purchase as a poster through the New York Transit Museum. Proceeds go toward the museum’s educational and exhibition programming.

Tamaki grew up in Calgary, Canada, and lives in Toronto. She is a co-creator of the graphic novels “SKIM” and “This One Summer,” and the author of the web comic “SuperMutant Magic Academy.” She graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2003 and taught illustration at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons in New York.

MTA Arts & Design previously received a silver medal in Advertising from the Society of Illustrators in 2015 for “Robots,” a subway art card created by Susan Farrington, and in 2014 for “Grand Central Catwalk” by Marcos Chin.  

Cropped image from "Platform" by Jillian Tamaki for MTA Arts & Design