Historical Map: Unpublished Proof of H.C. Beck’s London Underground Diagram, 1932

A printer’s proof of the first card folder (pocket) edition of Beck’s famous diagram, with edits and corrections marked in his own hand.

Of note is the use of quite ugly and overpowering “blobs” instead of the now-ubiquitous “ticks” for station markers, and the fact that the map has been entirely hand-lettered by Beck, using what he called “Johnston-style” characters. He’s cheated quite a bit with his letterforms and spacing on some of the longer station names.

The Piccadilly line is also shown in what seems to us a very odd light blue, although Beck was simply following established colour conventions from earlier geographical maps. The now-familiar dark blue was in place by the time the diagram was officially released in January of 1933.

Source: Scanned from my personal copy of “Mr. Beck’s Underground Map" by Ken Garland

  1. Camera: CanoScan LiDE 600F

Submission - Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Network, 2014

Submitted by 1993matias, who says:

Hi there!

I am a big admirer of your reckless slaughter of bad maps - and the praise of the good ones. But, the map you got for the Copenhagen S-train network (reviewed way back in November 2011, 3 stars) is not the best you could have gotten. This one above is the official one at all stations in the area.

It has that sleek feel as the other map, but the local trains in the north take much of the focus with their dark colour. The metro has some very neutral colours, contrary to the red and green they really have. And the black and white dots make no sense to me, why not use ticks as the rest of the map? There are no transfer station, as the ticket system is “open” - barrier free. That makes every station a transfer station. 

The design has been thought through, I can’t see any glaring design mistake - maybe apart from the “merging” routes just after the central station on the big bend (purple and grey).

I wonder what they will do when the new metro circle line opens - there’s no room left in central Copenhagen…

——

Transit Maps says:

To be fair, I did review the previous map back in 2011, so I’m not really surprised that it’s changed since then (I do note that my source link on the previous post no longer leads to any maps).

That said, this version of the map addresses almost all of the issues I had with the older one – lack of geographical context, no indication of connecting services, no indication of the importance of Copenhagen Central station – so it’s definitely a huge improvement in my opinion.

I would agree that the dark purple colour used for the connecting “Lokalbaner” trains is far too visually strong, but I don’t really mind the light grey used for the Metro lines: it’s secondary, connecting information and shouldn’t be shown with the same importance as the main focus of the map, the S-Tog system. I’m also at a a loss to understand why the stations are white on the M1 line, but black on the M2: it really doesn’t seem necessary to me. 

And yes, it looks like a rethink will be needed once the Metro circle line opens… the centre of the city is going to need a lot more room. However, there’s a lot of empty space (Sweden) to the right of the map, so it looks like the same square format could still be used.

Our rating: A big improvement over the previous iteration. Four stars.

4 Stars!

Source: DSB website (PDF download) 

Historical Map: Frankfurt S- and U-Bahn Map, 1982

Here’s a great map that shows the rapid transit of Frankfurt am Main in Germany at an interesting point in its development.

The Citytunnel that carried lines S1 through S6 under the central part of the city had opened just four years prior to this, and the bridge over the Main that carried the new S14 and S15 lines was constructed in 1980. The year after this map was produced, the Citytunnel was extended from Hauptwache to Konstablerwache, transforming it from a small station that only served the U4 and U5 lines to the second-busiest station in the network.

Also of interest is the strong divide visible in the network north and south of the Main river. Only one coloured S-Bahn route (the S15) makes it south of the river, and then only just. The rest of the routes that service the south are all shown in black, and all depart from the mainline platforms at the Hauptbahnhof. In effect, they’re really regional trains, despite their “S” numbering, and actually appear to be indicated as such in modern maps of the network.

The map itself is a great example of nice, clean, 1980s German transit map design, apart from the oddly large and out-of-place asterisk used to mark short-turn stations.

Our rating: Good-looking map of a system that was expanding rapidly at the time. Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

Source: Dennis Brumm/Flickr

Unofficial Map: Istanbul Railway Network by Bertan Kılıçcıoglu
I’ve already featured an excellent unofficial map of Istanbul’s transit network by Kerim Bayer (June 2012, 4 stars), but here’s a new one that’s worthy of some attention.
First, let’s note that Istanbul’s transit network has expanded considerably in the last couple of years, and there’s now finally a rail connection across the Bosphorus, as well as a new Metro bridge over the Golden Horn (with a station in the middle of the span, no less!).
Although there’s a revised official map to go along with this expansion (see the second image above), it’s pretty poor. Weird non-standard angles are employed to shoehorn new routes into the existing framework of the map and the whole thing has a very tired, amateur feel about it.
Apparently, Bertan felt so strongly about this poor, sad map that he decided to rework it in his spare time. A man after my own heart!
What’s interesting about his map, though, is that it’s not really a new design at all. Bertan has taken all the elements of the old map — the same colours, route line thicknesses, symbols, icons, and legend information — and has simply used them in a far more attractive, considered way.
Route lines are strictly limited to 45 degrees, all labelling is horizontal (and he’s taken great care to stop labels from overlapping his route lines), interchanges are shown more cleanly… and more! It’s a great example of how a little bit of care and effort can transform an ordinary map into something much more cohesive and user-friendly.
For those who are interested, the (rather nice, if a little quirky) typeface used on Bertan’s map is the open-source Google font, Titillium Web.
Our rating: Using the same building blocks as the official map in an intelligent way, Bertan has transformed this map from dowdy to diva: four stars!

Source: Bertan’s portfolio website — click through to read more about his design process, as well as see some more comparison images. Unofficial Map: Istanbul Railway Network by Bertan Kılıçcıoglu
I’ve already featured an excellent unofficial map of Istanbul’s transit network by Kerim Bayer (June 2012, 4 stars), but here’s a new one that’s worthy of some attention.
First, let’s note that Istanbul’s transit network has expanded considerably in the last couple of years, and there’s now finally a rail connection across the Bosphorus, as well as a new Metro bridge over the Golden Horn (with a station in the middle of the span, no less!).
Although there’s a revised official map to go along with this expansion (see the second image above), it’s pretty poor. Weird non-standard angles are employed to shoehorn new routes into the existing framework of the map and the whole thing has a very tired, amateur feel about it.
Apparently, Bertan felt so strongly about this poor, sad map that he decided to rework it in his spare time. A man after my own heart!
What’s interesting about his map, though, is that it’s not really a new design at all. Bertan has taken all the elements of the old map — the same colours, route line thicknesses, symbols, icons, and legend information — and has simply used them in a far more attractive, considered way.
Route lines are strictly limited to 45 degrees, all labelling is horizontal (and he’s taken great care to stop labels from overlapping his route lines), interchanges are shown more cleanly… and more! It’s a great example of how a little bit of care and effort can transform an ordinary map into something much more cohesive and user-friendly.
For those who are interested, the (rather nice, if a little quirky) typeface used on Bertan’s map is the open-source Google font, Titillium Web.
Our rating: Using the same building blocks as the official map in an intelligent way, Bertan has transformed this map from dowdy to diva: four stars!

Source: Bertan’s portfolio website — click through to read more about his design process, as well as see some more comparison images.

Unofficial Map: Istanbul Railway Network by Bertan Kılıçcıoglu

I’ve already featured an excellent unofficial map of Istanbul’s transit network by Kerim Bayer (June 2012, 4 stars), but here’s a new one that’s worthy of some attention.

First, let’s note that Istanbul’s transit network has expanded considerably in the last couple of years, and there’s now finally a rail connection across the Bosphorus, as well as a new Metro bridge over the Golden Horn (with a station in the middle of the span, no less!).

Although there’s a revised official map to go along with this expansion (see the second image above), it’s pretty poor. Weird non-standard angles are employed to shoehorn new routes into the existing framework of the map and the whole thing has a very tired, amateur feel about it.

Apparently, Bertan felt so strongly about this poor, sad map that he decided to rework it in his spare time. A man after my own heart!

What’s interesting about his map, though, is that it’s not really a new design at all. Bertan has taken all the elements of the old map — the same colours, route line thicknesses, symbols, icons, and legend information — and has simply used them in a far more attractive, considered way.

Route lines are strictly limited to 45 degrees, all labelling is horizontal (and he’s taken great care to stop labels from overlapping his route lines), interchanges are shown more cleanly… and more! It’s a great example of how a little bit of care and effort can transform an ordinary map into something much more cohesive and user-friendly.

For those who are interested, the (rather nice, if a little quirky) typeface used on Bertan’s map is the open-source Google font, Titillium Web.

Our rating: Using the same building blocks as the official map in an intelligent way, Bertan has transformed this map from dowdy to diva: four stars!

4 Stars!

Source: Bertan’s portfolio website — click through to read more about his design process, as well as see some more comparison images.

Historical Map: Nicholson’s Complete London Guide Bus Map, c. 1980

Unusual and potentially confusing bus map that chooses to colour-code routes by the major thoroughfare that they travel down: all Oxford Street buses are orange, all Farringdon Road buses are lime green, etc. However it’s all a bit of a mess, made more so by the strangely yellow/orange-heavy colour palette. Westminster Bridge is crossed by six routes; five of them are way too similar to each other (orange-brown, yellow, orange, another orange-brown and lime green). Only the dark green Victoria Street route line provides sufficient contrast with the other lines here.

The map also requires the user to have more than a passing familiarity with London bus routes, as it only lists their route number as they leave the map, not their destination. I know that Route 9 passes through Piccadilly, but where does it go after that? A travel-savvy Londoner might know, but a tourist may not.

Reminiscent of this similarly confusing central Sydney bus map from 2000, although at least the Sydney map tells you the final destination of the bus routes!

Our rating: Idiosyncratic, strange and not actually terribly useful. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Source: grepnold/Flickr

Fantasy Map: 2014 Tour de France as a London Tube Map by Joe McNamara

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got nothing against the “… as a subway/tube map” design trope. Having created more than a few of this type of map myself, I’d be a pretty sad hypocrite if I said otherwise.

However, it does bug me when a map in this style fails to live up to the fundamental underlying design principles of the piece that inspired it, and that’s what’s happened here. Obviously drawing inspiration from H.C. Beck's famous Tube Diagram (the oversized LU roundel really driving the point home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), this map was created to commemorate the first few stages of this year's Tour de France being held in England. It’s a fun idea, and not without merit as a concept, but there’s far more to making a tube map than just putting some coloured route lines down on a page and calling it done.

Beck himself, ever in search of more simplification and rectilinearity in his Diagram, would simply not have approved of the twisty, torturous paths that these stage routes take. In his hands, Epernay to Nancy would have been represented by a simple straight segment (instead of needing three angle changes): Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne by a clean diagonal line. Yes, there’s a desire to indicate the relative lengths of each stage here (making this a map/diagram hybrid of sorts), but there has to be a simpler, cleaner, more Beck-like way to do it.

In my opinion, if you’re going to make such a big deal about the source of your homage, then a better adherence to the design principles espoused by that source can only make for a better end product. And I’m not talking about making a map that’s slavishly identical in every detail to the source: I have no problem with the substitution of what looks like Gotham for Johnston Sans, or the non-rounded corners where the routes change direction: that’s just window dressing on top of what really makes the Tube Map what it is — Beck’s never-ending quest for design clarity.

Source: via Gizmodo

Photo: Bus map? Or periodic table?

Not really as bad as all that, but an amusing comparison nonetheless. There’s probably a good reason for the crossed out duplicate route numbers, but I sure as heck don’t know what it is.

Source: anna pickard/Flickr

Historical Map: East Berlin U- and S-Bahn Map, 1988

Another amazing historical map from that most fascinating of transit map cities, Berlin. This one shows the U-Bahn and S-Bahn networks of East Berlin in July 1988, just over a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. West Berlin is entirely omitted, with the S-Bahn ending at Friedrichstrasse with no indication of what lies further west of that point: not even a sektorengrenze.

The numbers at each station indicate the travel time from the nominal “centre” of each system – Ostkreuz for the S-Bahn and Alexanderplatz for the U-Bahn. A green square at a U-Bahn station indicates an interchange to main line trains.

The map itself is pretty basic and ugly, especially when compared to this map, made just five years previously. Route lines and labels head off in just about every possible direction and the whole thing has a very “thrown together” look. However, it’s a great historical document – one of the last East Berlin transit maps.

Source: Robin McMorran/Flickr

Official Map: Southeastern Rail Network, England

Southeastern’s website contains the following blurb: “Our network covers London, Kent and parts of East Sussex. With 179 stations and over 1000 miles of track, we operate one of the busiest networks in the country. We also run the UK’s only high speed trains.”

They should really add: “We also have a network map that makes it almost impossible to work out where our trains actually go.” I mean, what is actually going on here? Leaving out the networks of connecting rail companies, there are two main Southeastern networks – the magenta Metro routes (London and surrounds) and the lime green mainline routes that extend out into Kent and East Sussex – but that’s about as much as this map really tells you.

You could probably assume that most Metro services start at one of the four London terminus stations shown, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess. If I get on at Victoria, where can I actually go? What happens at the apparent Y-junctions east of Barnehurst and Slade Green? Which way do trains go and could they actually loop all the way back to London? Nothing here tells me otherwise, so that’s an assumption that could be made by a user unfamiliar with the system.

Do the mainline trains start in London as well, or do I have to catch a Metro train out to, say, Sevenoaks and change trains there? The lime green routes are only shown outside London’s perimeter, after all.

It’s all just horribly ambiguous and unclear. It’s only after poking around on the Southeastern website that I found an alternate “lines of route” interactive map that makes some sense of things. There are actually six Metro routes and five mainline routes, four of which originate from London. The fifth – the Medway Valley line – runs from Tonbridge to Strood. Try working that out from the map.

Our rating: A prime example of style over substance. The map looks cool and all, but it doesn’t actually help a user plan a trip at all. Eleven routes isn’t that many: show them all from end to end so that people can easily determine where to get on a train, where to most efficiently interchange with other services and where they can get off. It’s really not that hard, people. One star.

1 Star

Source: Southeastern Rail website

Photo: The Underground Map – Then and Now

A nicely executed little montage of Underground maps through the years. From left to right: what looks like the 1932 version of the F.H Stingemore map, the original 1933 H.C. Beck diagram, and a modern day Tube Map. I have to say, the Underground uniforms in the 1930s were a lot nicer than their modern counterparts!