Fantasy Map: Airbus A380 Network as a Subway Map
Here’s a map that’s doing the social media rounds today — a subway map-style representation of Airbus A380 routes.
All I can say is: meh.
Remember when air travel was stylish and cool? Personally, I love airline route maps, with their arc-like routes branching out all across the globe: it helps keep a sense of wonder about the vast distances we travel, high above the earth.
Instead, here we are: on the subway. Under the city, running through dark, noisy tunnels, packed in like sardines (actually, that last part holds true for air travel as well these days!). It’s a miserable metaphor for what’s meant to be the future of air travel, and it doesn’t help that the map is terribly executed as well. The continents are reduced to shapeless grey blobs (South America isn’t even shown at all!), while, bizarrely, a river runs through the oceans. I guess it’s meant to make it look more “transit mappy”, but it’s just asinine.
And then there’s the completely inconsistent application of station symbols — circles, rectangles and dots just plonked down anywhere. Why does Guangzhou have an interchange symbol when it doesn’t actually interchange with anything?
Our rating: A poor execution of an awful concept. You can’t tell me this wouldn’t look a hundred times more magnificent and exciting if it was a traditional air route map. Half a star.
(Source: Airbus’ Facebook page)
Tutorial: Station Labels Using the “Core Type Area” - Part 2: 45-Degree Angled Route Lines
Following on from last week’s tutorial, here’s how to use the Core Type Area to make your station labels align perfectly and consistently when you’re applying them to 45-degree angled route lines.
If you use the edges of the Core Type Area when you’re aligning labels to horizontal and vertical route lines, then it should make perfect sense that you use the corners of it when you’re labelling angled stations. The first GIF shows the defining setup — using the bottom right corner for labels above and to the left of the route line and the top left corner for labels below and to the right of the route line. I’ve shown this setup first because it always looks right: there’s always a capital letter in the former, and the bottom right edge of a lower-case letter in the latter.
The second image shows what happens when you apply the same rules to the opposite angle. That is, using the top right corner for names to the left and below the route line, and the bottom left corner for names above and to the right. When the route line is angled like this, it can be harder to see that you’ve got the placement right, because the letterforms are more varied.
In the first instance, the last letter of a word could be an “n” (as we have here) or a “d”. We need to allow space for the “d” to fit comfortably, hence the use of the Core Type Area, which shows us exactly that. Whatever you do, don’t nudge labels without a final ascender up until that letter aligns with the station marker: this is what leads to uneven and inconsistent baselines as seen on the recent Sydney Trains map redesign.
Labels to the right and above aren’t quite as bad, but there’s still some variance: the first letter could be a “T”, “B”, or “W”, all of which have a different visual relationship to that bottom left corner. Remember to use the Core Type Area — the box that defines the maximum size the label could take up — and not the letterforms themselves to align text to markers and you should always be okay.
The last image shows a mistake I see quite often when designers try to align their labels to 45-degree lines by simply moving the label sideways from the marker, instead of across and up/down an even amount. I personally prefer not to do this, as I think it creates uneven spacing, but it can look effective and interesting when done right.
However, be aware that labels that sit on the lower side of the route line need to hang from the top of the Core Type Area (by their cap height) or they’ll end up being too close to the route line, as shown in the image. Type that sits on the higher side of the route line can sit on its baseline.
Unofficial Future Map: Singapore MRT/LRT by Bernie Ng
Submitted by Bernie, who says:
I saw your recent post regarding future Singapore MRT/LRT maps and thought I’d throw mine into the ring. The Singapore MRT has long been one of my fave metro systems around the world. I like the concept of destination numbers and station numbers - I believe it is one of the first, if not the first, to use this concept (do let me know if that’s not quite right). My approach for this map is to incorporate the station number into the station marker itself to avoid some of the clutter associated placing the station name AND the number alongside the station marker. Also, I really wanted the Circle Line to be a circle, so I have adopted a few distortions to make that happen. Finally, I tried to incorporate geography of Singapore in a stylistic manner to further reinforce the circle motif. I know this does not quite meet the professional standards I often see on this blog (this is drawn using Microsoft Visio), but let me know what you think all the same!
Transit Maps says:
I don’t know, Bernie — this looks pretty darn nice from what I can see!
The temptation to make any line called the “Circle Line” live up to its name is almost always too hard to resist! Sometimes the result can be a little forced or contrived, but I think you’ve done a nice job here — for the most part, the stations are spaced out pretty nicely. I particularly like the way you’ve managed to keep the purple North East Line perfectly straight while heading entirely in the direction its name implies.
Integrating the station code into the station marker is a good idea that removes clutter — reader Xavier Fung pointed out that the new official map does this as well — and the insets for the LRT systems also work well in simplifying the main map as well as providing greater detail for these services than the official map can. I also really like the stylish shell-like shape that the island of Singapore takes on: stylised but recognisable!
My few quibbles — the graduated grey background could be seen as representing fare zones. As Singapore uses a distance-based fare system, not a zonal one, this could cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. I also find the grey a little drab and overpowering — it seems to make the other colours used on the map a little duller as well.
Finally: Visio? Not my tool of choice, and you’re probably pushing it to the absolute limit of its capabilities, but this does look really, really good.
Our rating: Strong visual concept, nicely executed, a couple of well-thought out innovations. Colours could be brighter and more evocative of Singapore. Three-and-a-half stars.
P.S. See another excellent unofficial redesign of the Singapore MRT map here.
Historical Map: Homeward Passenger Movement During the Evening Rush Period, Toronto, 1915
Beautiful diagram indicating the patterns of homeward peak-hour travel via public transportation (at this time, mainly streetcar) in Toronto. By my rough count, the collection of yellow dots in the downtown area represents some 49,500 people.
Of particular interest are the red-and-white hatched dots, which represent a point where passengers transfer from the privately-run Toronto Railway Company’s (TRC) streetcars to those of the city-owned Toronto Civic Railways. Due to a disagreement over the terms of the franchise, the TRC refused to offer streetcar service in newly-annexed portions of Toronto, forcing the city to create its own service in those areas. In 1921, the TRC’s franchise expired and all transit was consolidated under the new Toronto Transportation Commission, the forerunner to today’s Toronto Transit Commission.
If you look closely (click on the image to be taken to a much larger version of the map), you can see that ridership totals are also shown for the civic railways, just in a fine black hatching instead of the more prominent blue used for the services branching out of the downtown area.
Visually quite similar to this map of the morning peak flow on the New York City subway in 1954.
(Source: Toronto Transit Alliance)
Soon-to-be-Official Map: Tram Network of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Submitted by Alexander Zaytsev, who says:
Hey Cameron and Transit Maps readers! I’d like to show you the first transit map that in my portfolio. Here are the tram routes of one of the largest Ukrainian cities — Dnipropetrovsk. This unofficial map is going to be official very soon :) What do you think?
Transit Maps says:
I like it! Clear and easy to follow a route line from one end to the other. The map retains enough information to relate to the city’s street grid, which is more important for trams than it might be for a subway or Metro. The little jogs in the red Line 1 are a good example: I’d hate that kind of fussy detail on a subway map, but here it tells the reader that the line briefly jumps across to another street on its way through the downtown area. The little dogleg that Lines 4 and 12 take is also a nice visualisation of the actual street layout.
Interestingly, while the map shows connections to main line railway stations (denoted by a steam train icon!), it doesn’t indicate the Dnipropetrovsk Metro in any way. While I understand that the Metro isn’t exactly anything to write home about with just six stations and declining ridership, I think that some sort of acknowledgement of it of this map would be useful.
Apart from that, the only thing I’m not too sure about is the thinning of the route lines as they approach the big loop in the centre of the map. While I can understand the desire to save a little bit of space where five lines run concurrently, I don’t think the result is worth the effort. The orange Line 17 looks particularly off-kilter as it approaches the loop from the south, very obviously leaning to the right.
Our rating: A solid, earnest effort that’s clear and easy to use — far better than many maps of similarly-sized tram systems. Three-and-a-half stars!
Historical Map: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, 1956
A simply gorgeous mid-1950s map of the AT&SF’s passenger routes, taken from a promotional brochure produced in conjunction with Disneyland, which is shown prominently to the right of the map.
The brochure was ostensibly an introduction to the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland, then only a year old. Understandably, the AT&SF — who had basically bankrolled construction of the 5/8th scale railroad — were keen to get some return in their investment. As a result, much of the brochure is actually given over to advertising their “new and modern” rail services.
The whole brochure opens out to display this fantastic map, where Texas and Oklahoma are represented by scratchily drawn cattle, oil derricks and chemical plants, while the Grand Canyon becomes a large hole in the ground that a careless Native American is about to walk into. On top of these charming little drawings is a simplified route map of the AT&SF’s lines, stretching from San Francisco to Chicago.
Our rating: Gorgeous 1950s design sensibilities, although definitely more an advertisement than a practical, useful map. Four stars.
(Source: Vintage Disneyland Tickets website)
Unofficial Map: Singapore MRT by Andrew Smithers
As promised, here’s an unofficial map of Singapore’s rail transit that takes the future extensions and integrates them far more effectively and attractively than the official future map. This map was created by Andrew Smithers, who runs the quite excellent Project Mapping website — well worth losing a few hours to all the maps he has over there!
Immediately, you can see how design is used to simplify and clarify the routes — the Thomson Line becomes a north-south axis for the map, while the new Downtown Line now describes a perfect diamond-shaped loop. This motif is echoed beautifully by the larger loop of the yellow Circle Line — which visually lives up to its name far more here than on the official map — and even by little double-crossover between the Downtown and North East lines at the bottom centre of the map. Repetition of design themes in a transit map is a lovely thing, and it really helps to hold a map together thematically.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect, however. The station codes — used to help non-English speakers buy tickets and navigate the system — are just as problematic here as they are on the official map. Andrew has opted to place them on the opposite side of the route line to the station name; while it works well in the less-crowded parts of the map, it can get a little messy in places, especially where the Downtown Line runs close to the North East and Circle Lines in the densest part of the map (just to the right of centre).
Our rating: A lovely example of how repeated design elements can thematically tie a map together. Four stars.
(Source: Via email discussion with Andrew)
Yeah, it’s not immediately obvious what you need to do to submit an image. The trick is to use the dropdown menu at the top left of the Submit panel to change between the three accepted types of submission — text, photo and link. Then you’ll get an area where you can add an image, as seen in the image here.
So what are you all waiting for? Submit something!
Future Map: Singapore MRT with Future Extensions
I reviewed the official Singapore MRT map back in January 2012, and was generally in favour of it (giving it four stars). So it’s interesting to look at this version of the map, which includes extensions that are currently under construction or in the final stages of planning. There are two entirely new lines — the blue Downtown Line and the brown Thomson Line, as well as an eastern extension to the green East-West Line. There’s also a new light rail loop being added to the far north-eastern sector of the city.
The problem with this map is that the new lines have simply been overlaid on top of the existing older version, and they then have to take some very strange and visually unattractive routes to “join the dots” where they interchange with existing stations. The dashed “under construction” lines also align poorly with station ticks, leaving some of them floating in space between dashes. Finally, the downtown area is also becoming a little tangled and cramped because of all the new additions.
This map still does a very good job, and is still a very competently executed piece. However, some more thought about how to restructure it so that the new lines could be better integrated would definitely have been welcome.
As it happens, I have an unofficial map that definitely does consider how to incorporate the new lines in a more thoughtful manner… but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see it!
Our rating: The original map provides a solid base, but the new additions really aren’t integrated with much thought. A downgrade to three stars.
(Source: Singapore Land Transport Authority website)
Tutorial: Station Labels Using the “Core Type Area” - Part 1: Horizontal and Vertical Route Lines
A lot of transit maps that I’ve seen and reviewed on this blog are badly let down by their labelling. Sometimes it seems that the labels have been applied without much forethought or planning, or just slapped on at the end and placed wherever they will fit. But labels are arguably one of the most important parts of a transit map: it should always be immediately apparent which station marker a label belongs to, and labels should be applied according to a consistent set of rules.
My first common rule is to make sure that there’s enough space between the route line or station marker and the text: I see way too many maps where the labels are jammed right up to the line (often in a vain effort to save a little bit of space).
That said, let’s take a look at how I like to approach labels on my maps. The first image shows a sample label: I chose the name “Washington” simply because it has a good mix of letters that work well as an example: importantly, it has both ascending and descending letters. I’ve marked out the four main vertical typographical elements: these are the cap height, the x-height, the text’s baseline and the descender line.
Behind this, I’ve shaded an area in pink that I like to call the “Core Type Area” — the height from the baseline up to the cap height. I use this Core Type Area to determine how to align labels to other elements of the map. I discount the height of the letters below the baseline simply because sometimes a word doesn’t have any descending letters at all. This becomes important when setting up labels that sit above a horizontal route line, as we’ll see below.
The second image is an animated GIF that shows two different ways to align labels to station markers on a vertical route line. It shows magenta guides indicating the Core Type Area and thicker cyan guides that simply indicate that all the labels are a consistent difference away from their station marker. I’ve shown the two most common types of station marker: dots and ticks.
The first and third sets of labels centre the type vertically using the baseline and the x-height, while the second and fourth use the height of the Core Type Area. Both of these approaches produce good results, although I personally believe that the Core Type Area method looks slightly better regardless of whether the label is to the left or the right of the line.
The last GIF shows how using the Core Type Area gives consistent results when placing labels above and below a horizontal route line. As you can see, the cyan guides are the same length each time, but though we align labels beneath the route line to the cap height (the top of the Core Type Area), we align labels that are above the route line to the type’s baseline (the bottom of the Core Type Area), not the descender line. That’s because a lot of words don’t have any descenders in them: in these cases, the label would look as if they were too far away from the station marker in comparison to labels that are below the line. The trick here is to make sure you’ve got enough space between the descender line and your station marker/route line to ensure that they don’t touch or overlap.
Next time, we’ll tackle labels on diagonal route lines.