Recreated Historical Map: East Berlin S-Bahn, 1980 by Maxwell Roberts

What does noted alternate transit map designer Maxwell Roberts do when he comes across a rare postcard version of the East Berlin S-Bahn network from 1980?

He takes a photo of it, and then recreates it using modern design tools, of course.

Remember that the S-Bahn was still operated by the GDR even in West Berlin, although West Berliners boycotted the service for the most part, preferring their own U-Bahn network. The Staatsgrenze (state border) totally dominates even this supposedly “unified” service map, and it’s clear in a number of places where the border has cut a rail line neatly in two. The only place where interchange between the two halves of the system was even remotely possible was at Friedrichstrasse, and even then only after rigorous border screening.

The map itself is quite lovely — much nicer than this more well-known map from around the same time — with bright rainbow colours, restrained European typography (an East German alternate cut of Futura, as the original typeface was not available there at the time!), and nice mode differentiation. 

Our rating: A superb restoration of an obscure but excellent map, both design-wise and historically. Five stars!

5 Stars!

Source: The Atlantic Cities

Submission - Unofficial Map: Metro and Suburban Rail, Milan

Submitted by Dmitry Goloub, who says:

It all started when in Moscow was initiated a public tender for creation of a new, modern metro map. I was really excited and made an imaginary metro map for Florence (IRL there’s no metro).

But then I thought that I can do something really useful. A map for a real transport system that would be helpful, beautiful and clean.

I have completely redesigned the Milan Metro Map. I have added the latest updates with line M5, a grid with alphabetic list of stations, airports, I have created a new set of pictograms and packed them into a symbol font. I have created a completely new style that does not copy any other transport map in the world.

This map now has its own character, just like the city. The emphasis is put on the M lines however you can clearly understand how to use both M and S lines, how to get from point A to point B. The current official map just shows the S stations, it does not show to which line a station belongs.

I have excluded the regular railways (RFI) because they’re not a metropolitan transport.

Full project information and a PDF is here, free for download.

——

Transit Maps says:

Wow. This is absolutely beautiful work,and quite superior to the somewhat stuffy official map (March 2012, 3.5 stars).

Dimitry hits the nail on the head when he says this map now has a character that’s unique to the city, and its a look that feels appropriate for fashion-conscious, forward-looking Milan. Everything here is created especially for this map: the lovely custom icons, the square-yet-round station markers, and the stunning ribbon-like effect used for the suburban rail lines, which has a lovely rhythmical flow to it. Even the slight checkerboarding pattern used for the grid (alternating squares are tinted a little darker) — which could look clumsy if not handled well — is handled deftly and subtly.

Our rating: Hand-crafted excellence that suits its target city perfectly. 5 stars.

5 Stars!

P.S. Seriously, are Russians the best transit map designers at the moment or what? This beautiful piece, Michael Kvrivishvili’s contest-winning MBTA map and Lebedev Studio’s Moscow Metro redesign. All such beautiful work and something for other designers to aspire to.

  1. Camera: Canon EOS 1000D
  2. Aperture: f/7.1
  3. Exposure: 1/100th
  4. Focal Length: 37mm
Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

(Source: Official JR West website) Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

(Source: Official JR West website) Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

(Source: Official JR West website) Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

(Source: Official JR West website) Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

(Source: Official JR West website)

Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.

As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.

Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: Official JR West website)

Historical Map: Tramways and Trolley Bus Routes of Shanghai, 1939

At first glance, this appears to be a basic map outlining tram and trolley bus routes within Shanghai’s International Settlement, dated December 1939. It’s only when you read the legend that you start to realise the greater historical context of this map.

The statement that accompanies the dotted route lines in the legend simply states "No service in operation at present due to circumstances beyond the company’s control" — an massive understatement of the volatile situation in Shanghai at that time.

It’s just two years after the brutal Battle of Shanghai, and the Chinese parts of the city outside the International Settlement and French Concession are fully occupied by invading Japanese forces. Fighting between the Japanese and Chinese revolutionaries often spilled over the (supposedly neutral) settlements’ borders, which probably explains the reluctance of the transit company to guarantee service.

In 1941, the Japanese army entered and occupied the International Settlement in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor — the long-running Sino-Japanese war was now absorbed into the Pacific front of World War II.

Our rating: Not an amazing map of itself, but the history that it hints at is fascinating and deserves to be better known. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: Virtual Shanghai website via Taras Grescoe)

 

Historical Map: Diagram of Tube Services, 7:00am, September 28, 1940

Here’s a fantastic historical document — a tube map used by engineers in London to mark out the status of services on the Underground during World War II. By the look of it, this map was updated at least daily, if not even more often, as this date falls squarely within the Blitz — a period where London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights by the Luftwaffe.

The map itself looks like a modified hand-drawn version of H.C. Beck’s 1936 Tube Diagram, with all stations shown as circles and some main line track added as well. The use of the map is simple: a red line along track shows that there is no service along that segment, while a blue circle (seen between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, for example) indicates the location of an exploded bomb. It would also seem that the circle for a station is also coloured red if it is substantially damaged or destroyed. Most horrifying of all, a red cross marks the location of an unexploded bomb. Notes written in a beautiful, precise hand add detail to these symbols where necessary — “unsafe buildings”, “single tunnel only available for traffic: SB tunnel damaged by bomb”.

Our rating: An incredible historical document that vividly recalls the dangers and horrors faced by Londoners during the Blitz. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: IanVisits/Flickr)

Historical Map: “Explore the Yorkshire Coast” Poster, c. 1950s

Simply gorgeous mid-century poster designed for British Rail’s North Eastern Division by the prolific graphic artist, E. Lander. Yorkshire has never looked better, or so warm… look at all those people in bathing suits frolicking in the hot sun!

The simplified map suits the angular design of the underlying painted scene perfectly, a real synthesis of design and art coming together as a cohesive whole.

The section of line between Pickering and Whitby via Grosmont is today preserved as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, with the beautiful station at Goathland the highlight. Depending on your age, you might recognise it from Simply Red’s video clip for “Holding Back the Years” in 1985, as Aidensfield station in the long-running British TV series Heatbeat, or even as Hogsmeade station from the Harry Potter movies.

Our rating: Simply stunning. They don’t make ‘em like this any more. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: National Railway Museum/Flickr)

Update: More Process Work Behind the New Moscow Metro Map

As we reported late last month, the new Art Lebedev Studios Moscow Metro map is now in use around the system and on trains.

One thing that the studio has been fantastic at right from the start is documenting the creative process, and they’re not finished yet. Over on their website is a wealth of behind the scenes information that shows how much work has been put into these beautiful maps.

The map had to be adapted to fit six types of train carriages, each with different requirements, so the design team made field trips armed with printouts to ensure that everything fitted perfectly. Multiple iterations of the wheelchair-accessible symbol were created, to ensure that it had the same visual weight as the parking symbol that often appears next to it. Allowances for prescribed advertising space was made. The “Rules of the Ride”, prescribed by law, were made attractive and easier to read and separated from the map itself to make the usable space for the actual map larger. Icons were tweaked, revised, and discarded. Even once the design was finalised, there was still multiple rounds of proofing and corrections before the map went live.

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in the design and production of transit maps, you must read this case study. It’s currently in Russian, but Google Chrome/Translate does a pretty good job of at least giving you a good idea of what the plentiful pictures are showing.

Description Page  |  Process  |  In Use

First bonus: the map is available as a vector Adobe Illustrator file for download (EPS, 9.8MB) — free for use by individuals or businesses as long as Lebedev Studios are credited.

Second bonus: At the bottom of the process page is a scrubbable 41-image version of the map that animates the entire history of the Moscow Metro from 1935, all drawn in the style of the new map. Beautiful work!

FIVE STARS!

5 Stars!

Unofficial Map: London Underground Map Recreated Entirely in CSS

Even though I’m mainly a print designer, I’ve done enough web design work to know how fiddly (yet also powerful) Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can be. That’s why I’m totally in awe of this incredibly accurate rendition of the Tube Map, created with nothing but code by John Galatini. Not one image file to be seen! Johnston Sans is recreated with a web font, while the symbols for accessibility, National Rail, ferries, the Emirates Airline, etc. seen on the map are all “drawn” completely with CSS code. John estimates that the project took around 120 hours to complete, and I can believe him!

While the project’s website gives some great technical information on how the map was achieved, I prefer John’s own description on Twitter:

It’s basically lots of rectangles and squares, lots of border-radius (to create circles) and a shit load of css rotation.”

Our rating: An astounding example of what CSS can do. Five stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: CSS Tube website)

mappingtwincities:

It’s here! Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map
After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.
In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!
Prints
On-demand prints are available to buy at:ZazzleSociety6 (gallery quality)
Download, Print, Share, Modify…
No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!
The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged. 
Download high-resolution PDF 

Comments / questions?  Just ask!

Transit Maps says:
I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!
This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.
What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.
Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.
Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars! 
mappingtwincities:

It’s here! Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map
After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.
In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!
Prints
On-demand prints are available to buy at:ZazzleSociety6 (gallery quality)
Download, Print, Share, Modify…
No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!
The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged. 
Download high-resolution PDF 

Comments / questions?  Just ask!

Transit Maps says:
I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!
This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.
What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.
Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.
Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars! 
mappingtwincities:

It’s here! Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map
After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.
In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!
Prints
On-demand prints are available to buy at:ZazzleSociety6 (gallery quality)
Download, Print, Share, Modify…
No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!
The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged. 
Download high-resolution PDF 

Comments / questions?  Just ask!

Transit Maps says:
I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!
This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.
What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.
Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.
Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars! 
mappingtwincities:

It’s here! Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map
After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.
In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!
Prints
On-demand prints are available to buy at:ZazzleSociety6 (gallery quality)
Download, Print, Share, Modify…
No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!
The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged. 
Download high-resolution PDF 

Comments / questions?  Just ask!

Transit Maps says:
I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!
This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.
What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.
Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.
Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars!

mappingtwincities:

It’s here!
Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map

After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.

In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!

Prints

On-demand prints are available to buy at:

Zazzle
Society6 (gallery quality)

Download, Print, Share, Modify…

No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!

The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged.

Download high-resolution PDF


Comments / questions? Just ask!

Transit Maps says:

I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!

This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.

What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.

Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.

Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars!

5 Stars!

Book Review: “Vignelli Transit Maps”, Peter B. Lloyd with Mark Ovenden

As a graphic designer with a keen interest in transit maps and a fairly thorough knowledge of their history and usage, I thought I had a decent understanding of Massimo Vignelli’s diagrammatic version of the New York Subway map, which was used from 1972 to 1979.

This outstanding book has proved me almost completely and utterly wrong.

So much of what we think we know about the Vignelli map is simply hearsay and legend, repeated Chinese whisper-style across the internet, until we’re left with something that almost, but not quite, resembles the truth. Fueled by excellent research and interviews, and presented with beautiful (if occasionally a little small) maps, photos and illustrations, this book is essential for any lover of transit maps and good graphic design.

More than anything else I’ve read, this book places the Vignelli map in a proper historical context — what preceded it and why that left the door open for a modernist design firm (rather than cartographers) to produce something new, but also what led to its abrupt and premature death in 1979. There’s definitely more to the story than the usual “New Yorkers didn’t like a diagram/square Central Park/beige water” reasons that you often hear.

As well as a thorough analysis of the map itself — reproductions and accompanying text are presented for every version of the map — the book also delves deeply into the labour-intensive and time-consuming production methods required to create a map as complex as this in the days before computer-aided design. Asked to come up with an initial conceptual “trial map” in 1970, junior designer Joan Charysyn (who also independently created this New York Commuter Rail diagram in 1974) had to hand-cut pieces of PANTONE colour film into 1/8” strips and then assemble the route lines onto a one-foot-square board, adding station label type as well. Of the work, Charysyn simply states, “the execution of the comp was tedious and done in as few pieces as possible.”

The book also deals with Vignelli’s work for the Washington, DC Metro: he designed the wayfinding and station signage that is still largely in use today, but the contract for the system map was given separately to Lance Wyman. The book shows some of Vignelli’s very early (and very minimalist!) conceptual sketches for the map, and explains exactly why Lance Wyman’s proposed station icons (similar to the ones he had designed for Mexico City’s Metro) never got off the ground.

The book also discusses the reintroduction of the Vignelli map in 2008, comparing and contrasting it against the other modern player in the New York Subway map market — Eddie Jabbour’s Kick Map (Jabbour writes a preface for the book, and his admiration for Vignelli’s design philosophy and body of work is obvious).

This book is absolutely essential for any lover or student of transit maps or graphic design. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and beautiful to look at: what more do you need? Five stars!

5 Stars!

Published by RIT Press, December 2012. 128pp.
Order page is here — Book is $US34.99 plus shipping.

(Note: Transit Maps purchased their own copy of this book, and did not receive any compensation for this review, financial or otherwise)