Historical Map: Interactive Moscow Metro Map, c. 1968
Sent in by long-time Transit Maps reader and contributor, @dars_dm, here’s a great old photo of an interactive map kiosk in the Moscow Metro. Push a button, and your route lights up! Apparently, these displays were common at many Metro stations through the early 1970s. Highly reminiscent of the Paris Metro’s plan indicateur lumineux d’itinéraires (or PILI), an example of which I featured previously.
Moscow Metro Line Maps
A good example of how something that’s probably perfectly clear to locals can be totally confusing to foreign visitors. The first obstacle is obviously the Cyrillic text, which automatically makes things very tricky for non-natives. Now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time translating and cross-referencing the text here with a Moscow Metro map, and I think I’ve got it worked out — but this isn’t exactly a luxury that you would have when you’re down in a busy station, trying to work out where to go next.
Basically, this assembly shows transfers to other lines that are available along the Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya (Number 3) line: the dark blue colour of this line runs across the top, and three station names are visible: Kurskaya (Курская) — where you can transfer to the 5 and 10; Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Пло́щадь Револю́ции) — with a transfer to the 2; and Arbatskaya (Арба́тская) — which has interchanges with the 1, 4 and 9. Interestingly, you can also transfer to Line 1 at Ploshchad Revolyutsii, but this is not shown here. I’m guessing that this photo was taken at Kurskaya station, just from the four golden letters — ская — that can be seen at the top left of the picture.
Each line map underneath these station names helpfully tells you the name of the station that you transfer to (it’s not unusual for interchange stations in Moscow to have different names for each line). Less helpfully, it then presents a list of every station on that line from beginning to end, except for the one you are transferring at: which means you can’t see where on the the line that station is.
For example, on the Line 10 list shown at the left, the transfer station you would be using — Chkalovskaya (Чка́ловская) — should be in the fifth position, but is instead completely absent from the list. Needless to say, this isn’t great informational design, especially if you’re used to those reassuring “You Are Here" markers that you see in many other transit systems around the world.
Obviously, these line maps aren’t the only guidance a traveller would have in the Metro — a really good map and an idea of where you wanted to go would be necessities — but they could definitely be a lot better.
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.
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!
The Almost Official Map: Ilya Birman’s Moscow Metro Map
However, I haven’t seen as much attention being paid to the second-place winning map, designed by Ilya Birman. He also has a design process page for his map, and it’s just as fascinating as the Lebedev one.
He discusses the difficulty of having to label the map in Cyrillic and Latin scripts, as well as the problems posed by stations having multiple names, depending which line they are on.
The map also employs an unusual station-finding technique that relates all stations to the Circle Line, rather than the more usual grid look-up. It seems a little quirky at first, but it’s actually surprisingly intuitive after a while.
The page also addresses important issues like colour-blindness (the map holds up fairly well) and what to do when a station named Aeroport no longer has an airport anywhere near it.
Well worth a look, if only to see the sheer amount of thought and effort that goes into making a transit map of this quality. For me, there’s very little between this map and the Lebedev map, and both would have been very worthy of being the public face of this venerable Metro system.
The Design Process Behind the New Moscow Metro Map
As you may have heard by now, the Art Lebedev Studio entry will become the new official Moscow Metro map at the end of February. It beat out the other two entries convincingly, garnering 52% of the popular vote.
Of particular interest to me, though, is the design process page for the map on their website: a fascinating look at the hard work and effort that goes into making a world-class transit map. Concepts are tried, refined, discarded and tried again to find the perfect solution. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is evaluated again and again. Note the beautiful underlying grid (shown above) and the guides used for accurately placing station labels perfectly every time (something that the Washington DC Metro map was completely incapable of in its redesign last year.) More than anything, this page shows that good design doesn’t just “happen”: it’s a process that evolves over time according to the needs of the client and the designer’s skills.
The best part of the page? The map halfway down the page where you can scrub through 95 — yes, ninety-five! — different iterations of the map to see how the map evolved over time.
See also this page on Lebedev’s website that details all the features of the final, finished map. Also fascinating!
Potential Official Maps? Finalists for the new Moscow Metro Map
Further to my post regarding the unofficial “guerrilla” Moscow Metro map, Twitter correspondent @dars_dm has given me links to the maps produced by the three finalists in the official competition for a new Metro Map. I’ve reproduced them here for your edification. In order, they’re produced by Artemy Lebedev, Ilya Birman and Anton Mizinov and are all very strong in their own way.
I’ll confess that I’ve had a huge soft spot for the Lebedev map ever since I first came across it in 2010 and wrote this blog entry about it on my design blog — in what’s basically an embryonic Transit Maps post — wrongly identifying it as a new official map. In particular, I think his circular interchange symbols at major transfer stations are gorgeous, perfectly echoing the main Circle Line, which is such a distinctive feature of the Moscow Metro.
However, I’m interested in your thoughts (via comments, reblogs or answering this entry)… which of these three maps would you pick as your winner?
My previous post about the “map bombing” of the Moscow Metro has had a lot of interest, so I thought I’d pass on the fact that the original partizaning.org article about it has been translated properly into English on their site. Well worth a read.
Unofficial Map: Partizaning.org “Guerrilla” Moscow Metro Map
Last year, the Moscow Metro introduced a completely new official map, which featured 30-degree angles. Put simply, it went down like a lead balloon (link in Russian), forcing the authorities to hastily organise a competition for another brand new design.
However, some people decided they didn’t want to enter what’s essentially a no-spec design “contest” (there’s no payment for the winner, just thanks for a job well done) and set about designing their own map independently… and then covertly placing them on Metro carriages.
Reading the imperfect Google translation of their project website reveals their design goals: to bring the map back to a geographical grounding - showing the distance between stations better and how they relate to the physical landmarks of the city, especially the river. Connections to commuter rail are also shown, to better visualise usage of all transit in the greater Moscow area. All lines under construction have been excised from this map to bring greater clarity to the services currently offered.
Despite my own preference for diagrammatic system maps, I actually quite like this map. There’s some lovely work here, and the transparency effect applied to the route lines is quite beautiful. As seen by the last picture, it looks great in a real-world setting, and I’ve heard that the designers have enlarged the type size for better legibility since this first foray into the real world.
Our Rating: As much a political statement as it is a map, but undoubtedly good. Three-and-a-half-stars.
Unofficial Map/Art: Moscow “Underround”
Definitely more a piece of art using the Moscow Metro as inspiration than an actual usable map, but still noteworthy. Taking the spoke and hub nature of the Metro completely literally, the work shows the stations along each line in the form of concentric rings: simple, but graphically effective. I have no doubt that a seasoned Muscovite Metro commuter would be able to locate the stations they use quite easily.
(Source: aircoooled karma/Flickr