How do you use Adobe Illustrator to design these transit maps?! It looks pretty cool and I want to learn how to!
It is cool! (At least, I think it is!)
I wrote a general article about making transit maps on my own design blog back in 2011, and I also offer a lot of tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years here on the blog. The rest is just trial and error, ha!
And the obligatory reminder to check out the FAQ for answers to this question and more!
Hi Cameron! I just wanted to thank you for your review of my map for the New Mexico Park and Ride system (July 2014, 3 stars). I thought I should let you know that I have contacted Park and Ride and they are considering adopting my map in place of their regular one. (I made the edits you suggested and also produced a miniature version that will more easily fit into their timetable.) I’ll let you know if they end up adopting the map.
One other thing that might interest you: I make all my maps in OmniGraffle, which is available for both Mac and iPad (but not for Windows or Linux machines). I wasn’t sure if you were aware of OmniGraffle’s potential for designing transit maps, but it is remarkably effective (I designed the Park and Ride map in about two hours). I never understood Illustrator or Inkscape; OmniGraffle is much more user-friendly. If you’re interested, I’d suggest checking it out.
Transit Maps says:
That’s very interesting news, Isaac! Hopefully they can see the value in a good system map and not only adopt it, but also pay you an amount that reflects that value for your work.
I’m aware of OmniGraffle, but I would have a couple of qualms about using it for professional map-making work.
Firstly, it’s not industry-standard software, which limits the ability to share work with other designers who don’t have the application, and it also prevents you from learning the Adobe Illustrator techniques and skills that would be required in a real-world job.
Secondly, I’m not sure of its ability to create proper four-colour process (CMYK) or spot-colour output files, which would be an absolute deal-breaker in a print production environment. Later conversion from RGB to CMYK could cause unwanted and unexpected colour shifts, especially with blacks and RGB colours that are brighter than can be printed in the limited CMYK gamut (greens and blues are especially susceptible to this). To be fair, I’ve seen conflicting reports on whether or not OmniGraffle can export a CMYK output file, so it may be capable of this.
In short, if you’d like to experiment with transit mapping for fun or as a hobby, then OmniGraffle looks like a cheap, easy to use solution. Isaac has certainly proved that quality work can be created in it. However, if you’re looking for a career in mapping, then there’s no way around it: learn Adobe Illustrator and learn it well.
Thanks also to “Bklynfatpants”, who left a comment on the site noting that it wasn’t necessarily fair to compare Isaac’s complete map with the tiny schematic that Park and Ride uses in their schedule. Park and Ride does have a complete system map, viewable here (PDF). It’s a geographical map, exported directly from GIS software. It’s still pretty bad, although admittedly much better than the itty-bitty schematic.
I am an undergraduate student in Connecticut who has dreamed of pursuing a career in the transportation industry since I was in elementary school. I am most interested in developing intelligent transport system software and I passionate about maps in general because they help us software developers understand the trends of urbanization, routes, and much more to aid our development. I was wondering how did you develop such a knowledge on transit maps? What is your education background?
My education is purely graphic design-based, having completed an Associate Diploma of Visual Arts (Graphic Design) some twenty-odd years ago in Sydney, Australia.
As a designer, I’ve always had an interest in wayfinding and transit maps as a subset of graphic design, but my real love of it developed out of a trip to London in 1997, where I was first exposed to the Tube and its famous Diagram. I bought two books from the London Transport Museum – “Mr. Beck’s Diagram”, and the superb “Designed for London” (all about the remarkably forward-thinking and unified graphic design and branding he Underground has enjoyed over its 150 year history) – and haven’t looked back since.
My interest in transit maps has grown over the years, and I’ve applied my own thinking and design experience to creating my own maps, many of which can be found on my personal design blog. The Transit Maps blog actually began as a personal design exercise: analysing transit maps from around the world so I could make better maps – finding out what worked and what didn’t, as well as placing maps into a proper historical perspective. It’s grown into something much bigger since then, but that what was started it.
Working as a senior graphic designer for a large multi-national engineering and design firm certainly helps my perspective as well. I’m working with the people who help create the transit systems that the maps represent: seeing the huge amount of planning, work and effort that goes into even something as apparently simple as a short extension of a light rail system is certainly eye-opening.