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: 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!

Poster: Helping London Grow for the Future, Transport for London

London’s certainly come a long way since the Metropolitan Line first opened in 1863 with wooden carriages and steam engines. I wonder what a Victorian Londoner would think of this modern skyline, all soaring, glimmering, curving glass? 

transportforlondon:

Helping London grow for the future. We’ve been serving London since 1863 and our continuing improvements will help you get around for the next 150 years.

Photo: We are Transforming Your Tube

Rather clever and well-executed “under construction” signage seen in Tottenham Court station back in 2010.

Source: Luigi Rosa/Flickr

  1. Camera: Konica Corporation Konica Digital Camera KD-500Z
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/14th
  4. Focal Length: 8mm

Historical Map: “Visitor’s London” Tourist Map and Guide, 1959

The inset central zone London Underground map is a black and white version of Beck’s diagram from the same year, but really, this is all about the fantastic illustrations (by Peter Roberson) and groovy mid-century graphic design. There’s only two colours used here – black and pink – but they’ve been used in a very striking and eye-catching way.

I wonder what was on the reverse of this?

Source: smallritual/Flickr

Historical Map: Austrian Edition of Airey’s Railway Map of London, 1876

Simply beautiful rail line and junction map from the earliest days of what would become the London Underground. Extremely notable for its use of colour-coding to differentiate between the lines of all the different operating companies. In the days of chromolithographic printing, using this many different colours would have been an expensive, highly technical and time-consuming task.

The following text is taken from the raremaps.com description of this map:

Extremely rare early Austrian edition of John Airey’s famous Railway Junction Diagram of London (not in the British Library!).

The present map is an early Austrian edition of Airey’s most important single map, Airey’s Railway Map of London and its Suburbs, illustrating the innumerable railway lines leading out of London, and importantly depicting the earliest two lines of the new London Underground System, along with at least one proposed line which was never constructed. Airey published his first edition of the map under that title in 1875, which subsequently ran into several editions. It, in turn, was based on a map that appeared in Airey’s book, Railway Map Diagrams (London, 1867).

The map’s fascinating an innovative visual composition was originally conceived as part of a series of diagrams illustrating the rapidly expanding routes of the various railways throughout Britain. With its carefully placed and labeled colored lines, it is the true precursor to Henry Beck’s celebrated London Underground Map of 1933. In this sense, Airey’s maps were the first truly modern rail transport maps, and they set the gold standard for such publications throughout Europe and America.

London was the first major city to be served by railways (a technology invented in 1830), with the first line connecting London Bridge and Greenwich being completed in 1836. During the ‘Railway Boom’ of the 1840s, eight new lines were added connecting London with the countryside in virtually every direction.  Since that time, two new major lines had been added and new spurs had been built to access different parts of the city. Airey was commissioned to produce his diagrams by the Railway Clearing House (RHC), founded in 1842, it acted as an umbrella organization to collect and manage revenue from the various independent railway lines.

Perhaps the most important aspects of the map are the inclusion of the World’s first two Underground (or Subway Lines), the Metropolitan Line and the Metropolitan District Line (the original components of today’s District and Circle Lines). The Metropolitan Line was first opened in January 1863, while the District Metropolitan was completed in December 1868. Airey’s diagram shows how the new medium of the Underground integrated with the established railways. 

The map also records the proposed location for one of the early underground lines which was never constructed, the London Central Railway. The London Central Railway was formed in late 1871 for an unsuccessful north-south promotion sponsored by the Midland Railway and the South Eastern Railway, for a link between St Pancras and Charing Cross Stations. The name again surfaced In 1884, when a London Central Railway Company sought unsuccessfully for authority to build an electrically operated line from Trafalgar Square to St Martins-le-Grand via Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. This was intended to be an extension of the Charing Cross & Waterloo Electric Railway (now part of the Bakerloo line). This was authorized in 1882 but never built. 

The present, apparently unrecorded, edition of the map, may have been first published in 1876 in Vienna by the publishing firm of R. v. Waldheim, a leading house specializing in newspapers, music books and lithographic prints. From the inscription in the upper-right corner, it seems that the present map was originally issued within a book. While it is not clear which publication it is, it is possible that the map was associated with a later edition of the rare work Die Concurrenz im Eisenbahnwesen, a railway book first published by Waldheim in 1873. In any event, it is a fascinating testament to the contemporary pan-European fascination with Airey’s groundbreaking cartography.

Our rating: Simply beautiful: detailed in scope, but amazingly clear and simple in execution. Five stars.

5 Stars!

Image source: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.

Historical Map: The “Zéró” London Underground Diagram, 1938

Although clearly based on the H.C. Beck diagram of the period (which was only five years old at the time), this diagram created and printed entirely without Beck’s knowledge. Although the work is unsigned, it is now known that this map was designed by Hans Schleger – perhaps better known by his pseudonym “Zéró” – who had already created a number of memorable posters for London Transport.

Beck was furious, and he wasted no time in letting London Transport know exactly what he thought:

I have just happened to see a proof of a new Underground folder. The “H.C. Beck” diagram has been used, but with considerable and, I suggest, undesirable, alternations by another artist – one not on the staff – without reference to me.

The idea of redesigning the old geographical Underground map in diagram form was conceived by me in 1931; the original diagram, published in 1932 [sic: 1933] was of my own invention and design. Every variation of it since has been either made by me or by the lithographer under my supervision.

When I recently signed a form assigning the copyright of this design to the Board, it was not merely understood, but was promised, that I should continue to make, or edit and direct, any alterations that might have to be made to the design. This practice has been followed without exception since 1932.

I wish therefore to place on record my protest against the action taken in the present instance.

London Transport’s Publicity Officer, Christian Barman, managed to placate Beck, telling him that the new map was meant as an experiment in background shading only, and that “neither Mr. Patmore nor myself quite realised how far [the artist] had gone before we saw a proof.” His response, however, stopped short of assuring Beck that all future amendments to the map would be assigned to him…

As for the map itself, Beck’s assessment is pretty much spot on: the alterations are mostly undesirable. The graduated blue background – meant to highlight the central part of the map – is distracting and interferes with the legibility of type, especially when they are set in green type. The reversal of the Thames from white to blue where it cuts through this prototypical Zone 1 is also very visually distracting. 

However, the use of a single circle for interchange stations is actually far simpler than what Beck was using at the time – many stations had two circles, and Hammersmith used three! Beck would experiment with linked “Olympic Ring” circles and other arrangements before setting on the now familiar and ubiquitous “barbell” connector in 1946.

Also of noteis the depiction of planned extensions to the Northern Line  that were never completed due to the outbreak of World War II.

Our rating: An evolutionary dead end in the development of the Tube Map, but also the first indication that Beck’s position as the map’s guardian wasn’t as solid as he liked to think. Three stars.

3 Stars

Source: bananastrudel on Etsy

Historical Map: Ghost Stations of the London Underground

The Underground has been around so long, and its famous Diagram so ingrained in our heads, that we tend to think of it as an immutable object: always the same, never changing. That’s absolutely not so, as this fantastic reworking of the Tube Diagram shows.

Shown here are the 40-plus “ghost stations” of the London Underground — stations that once existed as part of the “Tube”, but no longer do, for varying reasons. Some stations have since been demolished, but others have been transferred to operate under different services like the Overground or National Rail and still exist as a part of London’s greater transit network.

What’s really striking about this map is the huge reach of the Underground outside London. While only ever operated as a special “excursion” service, the journey to Shoeburyness (at the mouth of the Thames) from Central London on the District Line was around 45 miles (or 72 kilometres)! Heading out the other way, the furtherest reaches of “Metro-Land” at Brill and Verney Junction are some 60 miles (95 km) from the centre of the city.

Here’s the complete list on Wikipedia of all the stations shown, giving the reasons for closure and whether the station is still extant or demolished. Good reading!

(Source: Us vs. Them via Taras Grescoe)

Design Resource: Transport for London’s “Line Diagram Standards” Guide

Definitely worth a look to see how a major transit agency puts together a comprehensive guide to assembling consistently designed maps. The guide deals with horizontal in-car strip maps and the vertical line maps seen on platforms, but many of the principles still hold true for the design of a full transit map.

Of particular interest is the relationship between the x-height of Johnston Sans and the thickness of the route lines (they’re the same). This value of “x” is also used to calculate the radius of a curve in a route line: the innermost edge of a curve is always three times the value of “x” — never any less. Almost every relationship between objects on the map is defined mathematically, although the nomenclature can be a little less than intuitive sometimes: “x”, “n” and “CH” all make an appearance!

Also, if you ever wanted to know what the PANTONE or CMYK breakdowns for all the Underground route line colours are, this guide tells you that, too!

All in all, a really interesting read — just try and ignore the terrible typos that pop up here and there: “donated” instead of “denoted” on page 11 is my favourite! Click on the image or the link below to download the PDF.

(Source: Transport for London website - 2MB PDF)

Amended Tube Map removes Embankment Interchange for 2014 Works

Even design classics like the London Tube map have to be flexible enough to cope with change. The escalators to the Northern and Bakerloo lines at Embankment station — yes, the very escalators that can be seen in the previously posted cutaway diagram from 1914 — are going to be completely replaced.

The process is going to take 43 weeks starting on January 8 next year. During that time, Northern and Bakerloo trains will pass through Embankment without stopping, as there simply won’t be a way to get from their platforms to the surface or to the District/Circle Line platforms.

As a result, Embankment has been temporarily downgraded from an interchange ring on the map to a station tick, and moved away from the intersection between all the routes. It’s had to be moved quite a distance, because “Embankment” is quite a long name (no hyphenation of names on the Tube map!). As a result, Temple has been moved off the horizontal section of the District/Circle line and placed on the 45-degree segment along with Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street.

I personally don’t think that Temple needed to be moved off the horizontal section: Embankment and Temple could clearly be evenly spaced across the horizontal section — Embankment below the line, Temple above — without any confusion, as the station ticks would clearly “point” to their respective stations. Embankment’s label might have to slightly to the right compared to its tick, but it would be no worse than the placement of Westminster’s label. With these two stations on the horizontal segment, Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street could all retain their usual positions: I think this would create more even, harmonious spacing of all the stations than the map shown here.

Apparently, this map is appearing on some Northern Line trains but hasn’t been updated on the TfL site yet (and shouldn’t be until the work commences). 

(Source: Tweet by Ian Jones — @metro_land)