Historical Map: Paris Metro Map, 1956

Transit maps today are created on computer, and printed with advanced technology. We think nothing of using many different colours, adding a drop shadow behind type, adding a gradient to the background, transparency effects - all things that state-of-the-art design software makes perhaps a little too easy.

As a contrast to these glitzy new-fangled maps, I present an antidote: a simply stunning, beautiful and ever-so-French map of the Paris Metro from 1956. It’s printed with just two colours, but a clever use of hatching and stippling allows the city limits, forests and the Seine to be shown with absolute clarity and elegant simplicity.

Have we been there? Yes, just not in 1956.

What we like: Elegant and simple. The two colours are beautifully selected and match each other perfectly and serve the purpose of the map well. Typography is gorgeous, with the suburb names - set in an elegant script - particularly standing out. Discreet numbering of the lines allows you to trace them relatively easily, even though they’re all the same colour. Historical interest with the inclusion of the gold Ligne de Sceaux - a line owned by the RATP that ran on a completely different gauge and with different rolling stock to the rest of the Metro. Much of it is now incorporated into RER Line B.

What we don’t like: Incredibly minor nitpick: the ornate compass rose looks a little at odds with the stylish simplicity of the rest of the map.

Our rating: A shining example of simple, elegant, usable mid- 20th century design. Every element of this map serves a purpose. Does more with two colours than many modern maps achieve with unlimited colours. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: mikeyashworth/Flickr)

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