So Just Who Made That Map Anyway?
So here’s where I get all crotchety and talk about one of my pet peeves – the lack of attribution to the original source of a map. This problem isn’t just limited to Tumblr, but it’s especially annoying here because Tumblr makes it so darn easy to attribute properly. As a curator who meticulously attributes the source of everything I post on Transit Maps, this behaviour annoys me no end.
So, here’s this great map of rail transportation in the Netherlands, but it’s presented without any context whatsoever. Who made it and why? Is it official or made by an enthusiast? Providing a link back to the original creator of the map not only allows readers to explore the map further, but – more importantly – gives credit where it is due. Someone out there has put a great deal of effort into this map and they deserve acknowledgement for their work. As a creator of maps, I know that I appreciate proper attribution to my website or this blog.
Not knowing where a map originated is barely an excuse to not attribute these days. Chrome allows you to right-click on an picture and choose “Search Google for this Image”, or you can easily go to images.google.com and upload it, or you can use Tineye… from there, it took me less than 10 seconds to track down the original source, which is Spoorkaart 2014. This is the 7th edition of this unofficial map, produced in conjunction with treinreiziger.nl, a Dutch train information and booking site. See, isn’t that interesting stuff to know? And if you want, you can head to the site and download your own PDF!
Interestingly, this version of the map (which seems to have been scraped from Reddit) has been stripped of its legend, title and treinreiziger.nl branding. It’s also been pretty poorly rendered, with some ugly font substitutions occurring when compared to the actual map (The actual map uses News Gothic, while this version uses what looks like Myriad). In other words: it doesn’t look like the creator intended and has removed all the features that could potentially identify the original source, which is doubly insulting.
Source: Spoorkaart 2014 website
This map shows the rail network of The Netherlands.
Unofficial Map: KLM Airlines European Routes Map by Veenspace
Submitted by Veenspace, who says:
I made this map inspired by a recent CityLab post on airline maps. It posed that most maps are geographically accurate but hard to read, and that the maps that do go for minimalism lose any geographical component. There’s a balance between the two that I wanted to achieve: readable & geographical. I chose to design it like a circuit board, with KLM’s central hub as the CPU.
Transit Maps says:
The circuit board conceit is perhaps a little gimmicky, with limited applications in the real world (an ad in a computer magazine?), but there’s no doubt that this is nicely executed work. I haven’t always been the greatest fan of subway map-styled airline route maps, far preferring the grandeur of the great arcs used in traditional airline maps, but this strikes a better balance than most, and has a definite aesthetic appeal of its own. Whimsical fun!
Fantasy Map: Highways of the Netherlands Diagram by AS Veen
Inspired by (but not derivative of) my own Interstates as Subway Map, here’s a nice diagrammatic take on the “A-Road” highway network of the Netherlands. It’s a relatively simple system, so the one-colour approach used here works quite well. It also illustrates the European tendency for major highways to bypass or loop around a city, rather than putting an Interstate right through the middle of downtown, as so often happens here in the U.S.
Design-wise, the map is nice and clean and easy to follow: the longer highways have reassurance markers placed along their length to keep you on track. The urban areas are called out with a minimum of fuss, but help to give valuable context to the road network — however, maybe Maastricht could be included as the obvious “final” major destination of the A2 before it exits the country?
Another interesting excercise here — if up for a challenge! — might be to overlay the European E-Road network on these highways to give a broader pan-European context to the network as well. For example, the E-19 route starts in Amsterdam, follows the A4 through The Hague, onto the A13 and A20 past Rotterdam, before heading south on the A16 into Belgium. The other two-digit E-Roads in the Netherlands are the E-22, E-25, E-30, E-31, E-34 and the E-35.
Overall, this is a lovely effort that simplifies the highways of the Netherlands down to their simplest elements, and looks good while doing it.
High-Resolution Scan of 1988 Amsterdam Transit Map!
Have I ever mentioned how much I love my readers?
I posted about this map last Monday, praising its visual clarity, but also lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a higher resolution version of it to really savour the details.
Almost immediately, I got a submission from Alain Lemaire, who generously sent me full high-resolution scans of the whole map from his personal collection. He provided me with four separate scans, one for each quadrant of the map (which is obviously too big to scan in one piece), which I have simply combined them into one big file (4325 × 4653px, 6MB) in Photoshop.
Tumblr’s maximum image size is way too small for a detailed map like this, so I’m hosting it over on my personal website. Click the image above or here to go and view/download it.
Alain has this to say about the map:
In my opinion, this map is a diagrammatic beauty, but pretty much rendered useless outside the city center because of the lack of bus stop labels and a geographic backdrop. Might have been the reason why GVB decided to drop this beauty and put the current – rather bland but more practical – design in place which does not feature any stop labels at all but does have a clear geographic backdrop. That way at least you do have a reference point for using the map. Maybe Hans van der Kooi could tell you more about the history and eventual decommissioning of this map.
As far as the colour coding goes, Van der Kooi used colour and line width to show which lines go where: thick red for all tram and thin red for all bus lines to the central station and main transit hub in Amsterdam, thick green for trams on the inner ring route along the city center, thick yellow for ‘other’ tram routes and thin yellow, green, blue and purple for all other bus routes. It seems to me he used yellow for most lines terminating at Sloterdijk station, which served as a second transit hub in the late 1980s. All regional bus lines are shown in black and white. For comparison: the current official map uses colour only to distinguish between tram, bus, peak bus and regional bus. Not of much use if you want to easily determine where your line is heading.
(Source: Alain Lemaire via email)
Submission - Historical Map: Public Transit in Amsterdam, 1988 by Hans van der Kooi
Submitted by the designer of the map, Hans van der Kooi, who says:
As a result of the popularity of the hand-out map for trams (June 2013, 4.5 stars) in Amsterdam, we designed a larger scale map, used on the tram and bus stops in Amsterdam, including the line of the buses as well. Designed and used in 1988.
Transit Maps says:
An absolute pleasure to have this map submitted by the original designer! While the image size is a little small to make out the fine detail, it’s obvious that this map builds on and continues the good work of the tram network map that I’ve featured previously. Again, the dodecalinear layout suits Amsterdam’s underlying structure almost perfectly, and the way that the thickness of the tram route lines instantly denotes service frequency is quite superb.
Buses are shown with thinner lines and (what looks like) lighter colours. Enough geographical information – parks, bodies of water, major roads, etc. – is included to orient users and make the bus routes useful to use.
The Metro is shown with a dashed blue line: again, the route line doubles in thickness when the two separate lines from Gaasperpas and Gein merge together in the south-eastern corner of the map. National rail services are shown as a dashed black and white line, the way they often are on Dutch transit maps. Note that even in this small image, it’s still very easy to distinguish between the different modes of transit shown – definitely something to aspire to!
Our rating: The image is a little too small to give this a proper rating, but even at a distance, the clarity of the informational design is something to behold.
(Source: 8-13 website via Hans van der Kooi)
Submission - Historical Map: Amsterdam GVB Map by Hans van der Kooi, 1980s
Submitted by Alain Lemaire, who says:
this map might interest you - in response to your blog post of Joan Zalacain’s Amsterdam tram map.
It seems the 30/60 degree paradigm is indeed well suited to Amsterdam’s topological layout. Too bad this once official map is no longer in use today.
Transit Maps says:
Thanks to Alain for sending this beauty in! Simply put, this is lovely work. What I really like about this map is the way it combines multiple tram routes into just four colours, each representing a different service pattern:
This approach also has the benefit of implying service frequency: the thicker the line, the more often a tram comes along. Other services — the Metro and NS trains are incorporated with a minimum of fuss, and there’s clear information about connecting services where appropriate. Large bodies of water (but only the Amstel, not the city’s famous canals) give some geographical scope to the map. If I have one complaint, it’s that I’m never really a fan of keylining a yellow route line with black: it always looks a little overpowering to my eyes.
Our rating: Fantastic, restrained, useful European 1980s design. Four-and-a-half-stars.
Unofficial Map: Dodecalinear Amsterdam Tram Map, by Joan Zalacain
"Dodecalinear" is fancy designer-speak for a 30-degree grid: it refers to the fact that the route lines can be laid out in twelve directions instead of the eight allowed by a standard 45-degree or octolinear map.
To put it in simpler terms: imagine six lines that pass through a central point — from that point, you can now travel in any of twelve directions. Technically, you can use any combination of opposing angles and still have a dodecalinear structure, it’s just that the regular spacing of 30-degree angles usually creates the most visually appealing look.
That said, creating a competent dodecalinear transit map is easier said than done, and should really only be attempted when it can bring a tangible benefit to the map. I used this form of map to great effect in my own unofficial rail map for Portland, Oregon — here, the 30/60-degree angles allowed me to more accurately depict the street grid in the downtown area of the city.
This map, designed by Joan Zalacain as part of his Masters of Information Design at the renowned University of Reading, certainly uses the extra angles to good effect. Amsterdam’s radial canals almost beg for this type of approach, and it’s executed deftly. The final version at the bottom right of this panel, with all the details of the city added in, looks quite superb, even in this dimly-lit Instagram photo.
Unofficial Map: Rail Transport of the Randstad, the Netherlands
Here’s a submission via the Transit Maps Facebook Page from reader Dave Kramer. This is a beautiful map of NS rail service within the Netherland’s Randstad region: an informal name for the conurbation of the four largest Dutch cities - Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht - and the surrounding areas.With a combined population of 7.1 million, it’s one of the largest conurbations in Europe and is serviced by a comprehensive rail system.
Dave points out that the map was created in 2009, so the routes may or may not be totally accurate now (I seem to recall a Sprinter train that ran through Schiphol to Amsterdam when I was there in late 2010, but I may be wrong).
Have we been there? My sole experience with NS trains has been from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal and back again.
What we like: Looks fantastic. A very clean, stylish and oh-so-European diagram. The typography is particularly nice (I can even forgive the 90-degree angled type because it’s handled so deftly). Different levels of service are denoted through use of colour alone - a dangerous approach when considering color-blind users - but there’s enough contrast between those colours for it to work relatively well (I ran the map through a colour-blindness simulator to check this).
What we don’t like: Major hub stations where every train stops could benefit from an “interchange station” style marker, rather than individual dots on each line. This is especially true for all the “Centraal” stations. The final destinations of routes that leave the Randstad are labelled within the route lines themselves, which makes them a little small and hard to read.
Our rating: Excellent. 4 stars!
(Source: Dave Kramer)
Official Map: Rotterdam Metro, The Netherlands
The very best transit diagrams have every element working in harmony to present a cohesive visual message. When even one element is out of place, a map can suffer. When that element is as important as the depiction of the region’s geography, the results can be disastrous, as shown by this map of Rotterdam’s Metro.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: The routes themselves are shown very clearly, with interchange stations and the National Rail system given the right importance. In fact, this would be a quite excellent example of European transit map design if it wasn’t for one thing…
What we don’t like: …the hideous blurry background. Quite possibly the worst attempt at rendering geography on a transit map I’ve seen yet. It’s not realistic, it’s not diagrammatic, it’s just… fuzzy. I can only guess that the reasoning behind this was to make it clear that this is not an accurate to-scale rendering of the landscape, but it just ends up looking indistinct, out of focus, poorly executed and a jarring visual contrast to the clean diagram placed on top of it.
Our rating: A quality diagram poorly let down by a terrible background. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official RET website)
Unofficial Map: Amsterdam Metro and Railway Connections by Eric Hammink
The simplified rectilinear grid is such a familiar form for transit maps that when we see something that breaks that mould, the results can be visually stunning. That’s certainly the case with this beautiful map from designer Erik Hammink, who uses the natural circular shape of Amsterdam’s canals to great effect.
Have we been there? Yes, although I’ve only used the tram network rather than the Metro service.
What we like: Lovely, minimalist European design, with echoes of 1930s Art Deco transit posters in its stylised, circular rendering of the IJ and the Amsterdam Metro type to the top right of the map. Beautifully clear and easy to read. I especially like the rendering of Amsterdam’s ring of canals, which orients the user perfectly.
What we don’t like: The need to adhere to the radial spoke design form means that some of the curves where routes change direction look a little uneven. The icon for Schiphol airport looks very large and out of character compared to the smaller, more elegant icons for the Metro and rail termini stations. The gradients behind the legends at the top of the map look a little modern and iOS-like compared to the beautiful retro feel the rest of the map has.
Our rating: Stunning work, especially when you also know that Eric has also produced a map of Amsterdam’s dense tram network that appears to fit onto the same radial grid. A true labour of love, and it shows. Four stars.
(Source: Hammink Design website - free download for personal use)