Submission: Transportation in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

Submitted by Jim McNeill, who says:

Kerala in southern India is famed for its backwaters, a popular holiday destination for people to cruise in rented houseboats. I was amazed to see a transit map of the area, and not a bad one at that. I was impressed at the attempt to show road, train, boat and air all on the same map. Granted it’s not perfect, the ferry crossings become maze like in the centre and there are some awkward angles in the south, but overall I was impressed.

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Transit Maps says:

It’s not the world’s most beautiful transit map, but I’m as impressed as Jim by the map’s intent: one map showing all the transportation options available in the Backwaters of Kerala — a huge area covered by lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, sometimes compared to the Mississippi Bayous.

One thing the map doesn’t really do is give an idea of the scale of the area shown: it’s around 140km (86 miles) by road from Kollam at the bottom of the map to Kochi near the top. It’s only when you read the notes on the map and see that a ferry trip from Kollam to Allappuzha (not even as far as Kochi) will take seven hours to complete that you start to get an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Some context in the form of the large lakes that the canals join together would be helpful in this regard. 

I’d also agree that the maze-like representation of the ferry routes in the middle isn’t very helpful, although it seems that Allappuzha is the main hub and ferries from elsewhere all end up there eventually. Another thing to note is that India has officially-designated National Waterways, much like National Highways — the main water route through this area is National Waterway 3, and is clearly marked as such on the map.

Our rating: Not beautiful, and not really that great for ferry route-finding. But in the end, it’s quite a nice little overview of transportation in the Kerala region as a whole. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Unofficial Map: Suburban Rail Network of Mumbai, India
Designed by two students — Jaikishan and Snehal — at Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre under the supervision of Associate Professor Mandar Rane. While it looks like quite a traditional transit map, there’s a few innovations and design choices (of which some work, and some don’t) that make it interesting to study.
First off, this map is infinitely better than the official one, which is a bit of a mess however you look at it.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pseudo-geography behind a diagrammatic map, but I think this actually works rather nicely. The interesting textural treatment of the water is particularly nice.
I also think that the explicit labelling of slow and express (fast) routes is surprisingly effective and definitely leaves no confusion as to which is which. The “play” and “fast-forward” arrows for each service type are a cute touch, but also act as good visual contextual cues.
While naming the lines on the map is a good practice to assist colour-blind users, I think there’s a bit of overkill here for a map this simple. The Central and Western Lines are labelled no fewer than four times each — the one for the Western Line at the bottom left of the map is particularly egregious as the route lines have to take a little jog to the left to accommodate it!
The only part of the map that I would change completely if I had a chance is the grid system. While it’s laudable that the designers have attempted to come up with an new, easier way to locate stations on the map (and it’s very clearly explained in the legend of the map), I feel that the end result has way too much visual importance. The numbers that denote each square are large and visually distracting, and can’t be placed in a consistent location because the actual map (the important stuff!) gets in the way. The haphazard placement of these numbers combined with the checkerboard pattern also makes the map look more than a little like a board game, which probably wasn’t the intended result. 
In my opinion, the traditional letter-number grid system — a system that almost all map users around the world are familiar with through years of exposure to it — would work much better here. The letters for the columns (A-D) and numbers for the rows (1-6) could be placed discreetly in the orange border around the map and the distracting numbers removed completely from the main map. If required, the smaller “Find Your Station” grid in the legend could spell out the full grid location within each square (In the example they use, Wadala Rd. station would be at B-4).
Apart from that, there’s just a few missing spaces between words to be fixed and consistency checks to be done — the map needs to use either “Rd.” or “Road” in station names, not both. Space limitations would seem to suggest that the former would be more appropriate here.
Our rating: A considered and well-measured approach to developing something beautiful, modern and usable, although some of the map’s innovations don’t quite work. Three stars.

Source: Professor Rane’s website. I definitely recommend clicking through, as there’s a lot of interesting background on the development of the map, including a Q&A with Jaikishan and Snehal, and images of concept maps that they worked on independently before combining their ideas into the final map. I’m quite partial to a couple of the maps that use 60/30-degree angles myself!

  Unofficial Map: Suburban Rail Network of Mumbai, India
Designed by two students — Jaikishan and Snehal — at Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre under the supervision of Associate Professor Mandar Rane. While it looks like quite a traditional transit map, there’s a few innovations and design choices (of which some work, and some don’t) that make it interesting to study.
First off, this map is infinitely better than the official one, which is a bit of a mess however you look at it.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pseudo-geography behind a diagrammatic map, but I think this actually works rather nicely. The interesting textural treatment of the water is particularly nice.
I also think that the explicit labelling of slow and express (fast) routes is surprisingly effective and definitely leaves no confusion as to which is which. The “play” and “fast-forward” arrows for each service type are a cute touch, but also act as good visual contextual cues.
While naming the lines on the map is a good practice to assist colour-blind users, I think there’s a bit of overkill here for a map this simple. The Central and Western Lines are labelled no fewer than four times each — the one for the Western Line at the bottom left of the map is particularly egregious as the route lines have to take a little jog to the left to accommodate it!
The only part of the map that I would change completely if I had a chance is the grid system. While it’s laudable that the designers have attempted to come up with an new, easier way to locate stations on the map (and it’s very clearly explained in the legend of the map), I feel that the end result has way too much visual importance. The numbers that denote each square are large and visually distracting, and can’t be placed in a consistent location because the actual map (the important stuff!) gets in the way. The haphazard placement of these numbers combined with the checkerboard pattern also makes the map look more than a little like a board game, which probably wasn’t the intended result. 
In my opinion, the traditional letter-number grid system — a system that almost all map users around the world are familiar with through years of exposure to it — would work much better here. The letters for the columns (A-D) and numbers for the rows (1-6) could be placed discreetly in the orange border around the map and the distracting numbers removed completely from the main map. If required, the smaller “Find Your Station” grid in the legend could spell out the full grid location within each square (In the example they use, Wadala Rd. station would be at B-4).
Apart from that, there’s just a few missing spaces between words to be fixed and consistency checks to be done — the map needs to use either “Rd.” or “Road” in station names, not both. Space limitations would seem to suggest that the former would be more appropriate here.
Our rating: A considered and well-measured approach to developing something beautiful, modern and usable, although some of the map’s innovations don’t quite work. Three stars.

Source: Professor Rane’s website. I definitely recommend clicking through, as there’s a lot of interesting background on the development of the map, including a Q&A with Jaikishan and Snehal, and images of concept maps that they worked on independently before combining their ideas into the final map. I’m quite partial to a couple of the maps that use 60/30-degree angles myself!

 

Unofficial Map: Suburban Rail Network of Mumbai, India

Designed by two students — Jaikishan and Snehal — at Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre under the supervision of Associate Professor Mandar Rane. While it looks like quite a traditional transit map, there’s a few innovations and design choices (of which some work, and some don’t) that make it interesting to study.

First off, this map is infinitely better than the official one, which is a bit of a mess however you look at it.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pseudo-geography behind a diagrammatic map, but I think this actually works rather nicely. The interesting textural treatment of the water is particularly nice.

I also think that the explicit labelling of slow and express (fast) routes is surprisingly effective and definitely leaves no confusion as to which is which. The “play” and “fast-forward” arrows for each service type are a cute touch, but also act as good visual contextual cues.

While naming the lines on the map is a good practice to assist colour-blind users, I think there’s a bit of overkill here for a map this simple. The Central and Western Lines are labelled no fewer than four times each — the one for the Western Line at the bottom left of the map is particularly egregious as the route lines have to take a little jog to the left to accommodate it!

The only part of the map that I would change completely if I had a chance is the grid system. While it’s laudable that the designers have attempted to come up with an new, easier way to locate stations on the map (and it’s very clearly explained in the legend of the map), I feel that the end result has way too much visual importance. The numbers that denote each square are large and visually distracting, and can’t be placed in a consistent location because the actual map (the important stuff!) gets in the way. The haphazard placement of these numbers combined with the checkerboard pattern also makes the map look more than a little like a board game, which probably wasn’t the intended result.

In my opinion, the traditional letter-number grid system — a system that almost all map users around the world are familiar with through years of exposure to it — would work much better here. The letters for the columns (A-D) and numbers for the rows (1-6) could be placed discreetly in the orange border around the map and the distracting numbers removed completely from the main map. If required, the smaller “Find Your Station” grid in the legend could spell out the full grid location within each square (In the example they use, Wadala Rd. station would be at B-4).

Apart from that, there’s just a few missing spaces between words to be fixed and consistency checks to be done — the map needs to use either “Rd.” or “Road” in station names, not both. Space limitations would seem to suggest that the former would be more appropriate here.

Our rating: A considered and well-measured approach to developing something beautiful, modern and usable, although some of the map’s innovations don’t quite work. Three stars.

3 Stars

Source: Professor Rane’s website. I definitely recommend clicking through, as there’s a lot of interesting background on the development of the map, including a Q&A with Jaikishan and Snehal, and images of concept maps that they worked on independently before combining their ideas into the final map. I’m quite partial to a couple of the maps that use 60/30-degree angles myself!

 

"Super Highways" Infographic Map by Christian Tate

Rather lovely subway map-styled infographic/illustration showing “six of the world’s most extreme roads and the places they connect”. Commissioned for Mazda’s Zoom Zoom e-magazine.

(Source: Christian Tate’s website)

Unofficial Map: Proposed Delhi Metro Expansion Map in the “Hindustan Times”

I know this just a quick in-house diagram to illustrate the proposed additions to the Delhi Metro system, but does it have to be so incomprehensible and ugly? Type is flying around at almost every possible angle, some lines are geographical, others are diagrammatic… I need a lie down.

(Source: tanoy_raj/Flickr)