Historical Map: Old Paris Metro Map Uncovered at Les Halles Station

A fantastic photo from Jean-Luc Raymond on Instagram of an old Metro map that’s just been revealed behind multiple layers of billboard advertising at Les Halles station. Definitely looks like it used to have a street grid layer which has faded away with age.

I’m not entirely sure of the vintage, although I’d say it can’t be from before 1979, as that’s when the RER C opened. It’s the thicker yellow line across the top of the photo with stations at Quai d’Orsay and St. Michel. The map’s typographical treatment — with names for interchange stations set in all caps Futura Bold — would also seem to point to that general era. Any further ideas on dating this?

Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map. 
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download) Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map. 
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download) Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map. 
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download) Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map. 
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download) Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map. 
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download)

Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map

Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.

It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.

Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map.

It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.

The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.

About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes). 

Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!

4.5 Stars!

(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download)

Historical Map: “Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris” Paris Métro Map, 1951
An excellent effort to portray the complexities of the Métro with just two colours. A  wide array of different dashed lines allows 15 lines (the 14 Métro lines plus the Ligne de Sceaux) to be differentiated relatively easily. As a guide for tourists, the map wisely concentrates on the central part of Paris, leaving the stations further out to be listed in neat little call out boxes.
217lemurs:

Paris Metro map from the inside cover of The Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris published by Ernest Benn Limited in 1951. Edited by L. Russell Muirhead.
Inside the book was a fold out map of Paris - although not attached it is presumably intended as part of the book.
Historical Map: “Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris” Paris Métro Map, 1951
An excellent effort to portray the complexities of the Métro with just two colours. A  wide array of different dashed lines allows 15 lines (the 14 Métro lines plus the Ligne de Sceaux) to be differentiated relatively easily. As a guide for tourists, the map wisely concentrates on the central part of Paris, leaving the stations further out to be listed in neat little call out boxes.
217lemurs:

Paris Metro map from the inside cover of The Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris published by Ernest Benn Limited in 1951. Edited by L. Russell Muirhead.
Inside the book was a fold out map of Paris - although not attached it is presumably intended as part of the book.

Historical Map: “Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris” Paris Métro Map, 1951

An excellent effort to portray the complexities of the Métro with just two colours. A  wide array of different dashed lines allows 15 lines (the 14 Métro lines plus the Ligne de Sceaux) to be differentiated relatively easily. As a guide for tourists, the map wisely concentrates on the central part of Paris, leaving the stations further out to be listed in neat little call out boxes.

217lemurs:

Paris Metro map from the inside cover of The Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris published by Ernest Benn Limited in 1951. Edited by L. Russell Muirhead.

Inside the book was a fold out map of Paris - although not attached it is presumably intended as part of the book.

Historical Map: Indicateur d’Itinéraires, Paris, c. 2003

An old-school interactive Metro map in Paris. Simply press one of the 360 or so buttons underneath the map, and a path lights up from your current location to your chosen destination. Who needs a fancy touch screen kiosk? I particularly like the way that the furtherest reaches of the RER lines are compressed into diagrammatic form to allow the centre of Paris to be shown as large as possible.

This particular example is still in use, despite it being around ten years out of date: the extension of Ligne 14 from Madeleine to St. Lazare (which opened in December 2003) is shown as being under construction.

(Source: Hervé Platteaux/Flickr)

Anonymous Asked
QuestionHow do I get by Metro from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris BERCY Railway Station ? Answer

Now, I don’t want answering this sort of question to become a habit — I’m more interested in looking at maps than being some sort of public transportation help desk — but I’ll make an exception just this once.

The short answer is that you can’t, as the Metro itself doesn’t go to CDG. However, a quick glance at the official Paris Metro/RER map tells you that you can catch a train on the RER “B” line from CDG (shown at the very top right hand corner of the map) to the Chatelet-Les Halles station, where you can transfer to Metro Line 14 (via a short walk through tunnels to the connected Chatelet Metro station) towards Olympiades. Bercy is just two stops down the line!

Unofficial Interactive Map: Annual Passenger Entries into the Paris Metro (2011)

A nicely executed interactive map of total annual passenger entries into the Paris Metro system. “Entries” are simply defined as a ticket validation at the relevant station.

Even in my static screenshot, the enormous quantities of people that enter the Metro at the main railway stations of Paris — the Gare du Nord, Saint-Lazare, Gare de Lyon and Montparnasse-Bienvenue — can be clearly seen. There’s a staggering 48 million entries each year at the Gare du Nord alone!

I definitely recommend clicking through to view the full interactive experience: there’s full information for each line and station of the Paris Metro — fascinating stuff!

(Source: Data Publica via @grescoe)

Paris Metro / French Knot

Nicely executed embroidery and framing - a fun idea for something to do with those metro maps you picked up while backpacking around Europe!

(Source: JessTodd/Flickr)

Historical Map: Pocket Book Paris Métro Map, 1961

Altogether rather lovely.

(Source: Rumbling Jessie/Flickr)

Historical Map: Paris Metro Map, 1956

Transit maps today are created on computer, and printed with advanced technology. We think nothing of using many different colours, adding a drop shadow behind type, adding a gradient to the background, transparency effects - all things that state-of-the-art design software makes perhaps a little too easy.

As a contrast to these glitzy new-fangled maps, I present an antidote: a simply stunning, beautiful and ever-so-French map of the Paris Metro from 1956. It’s printed with just two colours, but a clever use of hatching and stippling allows the city limits, forests and the Seine to be shown with absolute clarity and elegant simplicity.

Have we been there? Yes, just not in 1956.

What we like: Elegant and simple. The two colours are beautifully selected and match each other perfectly and serve the purpose of the map well. Typography is gorgeous, with the suburb names - set in an elegant script - particularly standing out. Discreet numbering of the lines allows you to trace them relatively easily, even though they’re all the same colour. Historical interest with the inclusion of the gold Ligne de Sceaux - a line owned by the RATP that ran on a completely different gauge and with different rolling stock to the rest of the Metro. Much of it is now incorporated into RER Line B.

What we don’t like: Incredibly minor nitpick: the ornate compass rose looks a little at odds with the stylish simplicity of the rest of the map.

Our rating: A shining example of simple, elegant, usable mid- 20th century design. Every element of this map serves a purpose. Does more with two colours than many modern maps achieve with unlimited colours. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: mikeyashworth/Flickr)

On Colour Blindness and Transit Map Design
Colour blindness affects a small but significant percentage of the population, mainly males. It is estimated that around 7 to 8 percent of men are red-green colour blind (the most common type of colour blindness), while less than one percent of women are. Strangely enough, I knew a girl in high school who was colour blind, but I digress…
Transit maps, as informational design, should pay attention to how colour blind users perceive them. Shown above are a few examples of transit maps which have been run through a Photoshop filter called Vischeck which simulates the effects of colour blindness. The left half of each image is a simulation of red-green colour blindness, while the right half is the standard map.
On a simple map with just a few lines, as shown in the Washington DC Metro, things aren’t usually a problem as the routes are easily distinguishable from each other.
The London Underground map does an excellent job of using contrast to differentiate between adjacent route lines, so usability is hardly impaired at all. Look at the northern Circle Line where pink, yellow and burgundy lines become grey (mid-dark), yellow (light) and black (dark) - all very distinct from each other.
The next step up in complexity is the Paris Metro map. Its subdued pastel tones actually hold up surprisingly well – again, by ensuring that adjacent route lines have plenty of contrast between them. Note also that the background colour doesn’t shift in tone at all, giving predictable results for the routes themselves.
Compare the official Paris Metro map to the unofficial one featured yesterday, and things are quite different. The low contrast colour palette used causes many of the routes to turn into very similar shades of yellow and blue, and the background colour shifts completely from green-black to blue-black. While it is certainly still possible to trace the routes, it’s definitely harder on the eye to do so. And as I said yesterday, the workaround solution of tiny “rune” markers on each line is way too small to be of any practicable use.
In the end, a diagrammatic map will almost always be usable by a color blind person, simply because the simplified form will make it easy to trace routes, but more care must be taken the more complex the system becomes. Labelling end points of lines with a letter or number may also help where there are many route colours. A simple plugin like Vischeck allows a designer to quickly gauge how their work may be perceived by those with colour blindness, allowing them to tweak their chosen colours for optimal usage by all. On Colour Blindness and Transit Map Design
Colour blindness affects a small but significant percentage of the population, mainly males. It is estimated that around 7 to 8 percent of men are red-green colour blind (the most common type of colour blindness), while less than one percent of women are. Strangely enough, I knew a girl in high school who was colour blind, but I digress…
Transit maps, as informational design, should pay attention to how colour blind users perceive them. Shown above are a few examples of transit maps which have been run through a Photoshop filter called Vischeck which simulates the effects of colour blindness. The left half of each image is a simulation of red-green colour blindness, while the right half is the standard map.
On a simple map with just a few lines, as shown in the Washington DC Metro, things aren’t usually a problem as the routes are easily distinguishable from each other.
The London Underground map does an excellent job of using contrast to differentiate between adjacent route lines, so usability is hardly impaired at all. Look at the northern Circle Line where pink, yellow and burgundy lines become grey (mid-dark), yellow (light) and black (dark) - all very distinct from each other.
The next step up in complexity is the Paris Metro map. Its subdued pastel tones actually hold up surprisingly well – again, by ensuring that adjacent route lines have plenty of contrast between them. Note also that the background colour doesn’t shift in tone at all, giving predictable results for the routes themselves.
Compare the official Paris Metro map to the unofficial one featured yesterday, and things are quite different. The low contrast colour palette used causes many of the routes to turn into very similar shades of yellow and blue, and the background colour shifts completely from green-black to blue-black. While it is certainly still possible to trace the routes, it’s definitely harder on the eye to do so. And as I said yesterday, the workaround solution of tiny “rune” markers on each line is way too small to be of any practicable use.
In the end, a diagrammatic map will almost always be usable by a color blind person, simply because the simplified form will make it easy to trace routes, but more care must be taken the more complex the system becomes. Labelling end points of lines with a letter or number may also help where there are many route colours. A simple plugin like Vischeck allows a designer to quickly gauge how their work may be perceived by those with colour blindness, allowing them to tweak their chosen colours for optimal usage by all. On Colour Blindness and Transit Map Design
Colour blindness affects a small but significant percentage of the population, mainly males. It is estimated that around 7 to 8 percent of men are red-green colour blind (the most common type of colour blindness), while less than one percent of women are. Strangely enough, I knew a girl in high school who was colour blind, but I digress…
Transit maps, as informational design, should pay attention to how colour blind users perceive them. Shown above are a few examples of transit maps which have been run through a Photoshop filter called Vischeck which simulates the effects of colour blindness. The left half of each image is a simulation of red-green colour blindness, while the right half is the standard map.
On a simple map with just a few lines, as shown in the Washington DC Metro, things aren’t usually a problem as the routes are easily distinguishable from each other.
The London Underground map does an excellent job of using contrast to differentiate between adjacent route lines, so usability is hardly impaired at all. Look at the northern Circle Line where pink, yellow and burgundy lines become grey (mid-dark), yellow (light) and black (dark) - all very distinct from each other.
The next step up in complexity is the Paris Metro map. Its subdued pastel tones actually hold up surprisingly well – again, by ensuring that adjacent route lines have plenty of contrast between them. Note also that the background colour doesn’t shift in tone at all, giving predictable results for the routes themselves.
Compare the official Paris Metro map to the unofficial one featured yesterday, and things are quite different. The low contrast colour palette used causes many of the routes to turn into very similar shades of yellow and blue, and the background colour shifts completely from green-black to blue-black. While it is certainly still possible to trace the routes, it’s definitely harder on the eye to do so. And as I said yesterday, the workaround solution of tiny “rune” markers on each line is way too small to be of any practicable use.
In the end, a diagrammatic map will almost always be usable by a color blind person, simply because the simplified form will make it easy to trace routes, but more care must be taken the more complex the system becomes. Labelling end points of lines with a letter or number may also help where there are many route colours. A simple plugin like Vischeck allows a designer to quickly gauge how their work may be perceived by those with colour blindness, allowing them to tweak their chosen colours for optimal usage by all. On Colour Blindness and Transit Map Design
Colour blindness affects a small but significant percentage of the population, mainly males. It is estimated that around 7 to 8 percent of men are red-green colour blind (the most common type of colour blindness), while less than one percent of women are. Strangely enough, I knew a girl in high school who was colour blind, but I digress…
Transit maps, as informational design, should pay attention to how colour blind users perceive them. Shown above are a few examples of transit maps which have been run through a Photoshop filter called Vischeck which simulates the effects of colour blindness. The left half of each image is a simulation of red-green colour blindness, while the right half is the standard map.
On a simple map with just a few lines, as shown in the Washington DC Metro, things aren’t usually a problem as the routes are easily distinguishable from each other.
The London Underground map does an excellent job of using contrast to differentiate between adjacent route lines, so usability is hardly impaired at all. Look at the northern Circle Line where pink, yellow and burgundy lines become grey (mid-dark), yellow (light) and black (dark) - all very distinct from each other.
The next step up in complexity is the Paris Metro map. Its subdued pastel tones actually hold up surprisingly well – again, by ensuring that adjacent route lines have plenty of contrast between them. Note also that the background colour doesn’t shift in tone at all, giving predictable results for the routes themselves.
Compare the official Paris Metro map to the unofficial one featured yesterday, and things are quite different. The low contrast colour palette used causes many of the routes to turn into very similar shades of yellow and blue, and the background colour shifts completely from green-black to blue-black. While it is certainly still possible to trace the routes, it’s definitely harder on the eye to do so. And as I said yesterday, the workaround solution of tiny “rune” markers on each line is way too small to be of any practicable use.
In the end, a diagrammatic map will almost always be usable by a color blind person, simply because the simplified form will make it easy to trace routes, but more care must be taken the more complex the system becomes. Labelling end points of lines with a letter or number may also help where there are many route colours. A simple plugin like Vischeck allows a designer to quickly gauge how their work may be perceived by those with colour blindness, allowing them to tweak their chosen colours for optimal usage by all.

On Colour Blindness and Transit Map Design

Colour blindness affects a small but significant percentage of the population, mainly males. It is estimated that around 7 to 8 percent of men are red-green colour blind (the most common type of colour blindness), while less than one percent of women are. Strangely enough, I knew a girl in high school who was colour blind, but I digress…

Transit maps, as informational design, should pay attention to how colour blind users perceive them. Shown above are a few examples of transit maps which have been run through a Photoshop filter called Vischeck which simulates the effects of colour blindness. The left half of each image is a simulation of red-green colour blindness, while the right half is the standard map.

On a simple map with just a few lines, as shown in the Washington DC Metro, things aren’t usually a problem as the routes are easily distinguishable from each other.

The London Underground map does an excellent job of using contrast to differentiate between adjacent route lines, so usability is hardly impaired at all. Look at the northern Circle Line where pink, yellow and burgundy lines become grey (mid-dark), yellow (light) and black (dark) - all very distinct from each other.

The next step up in complexity is the Paris Metro map. Its subdued pastel tones actually hold up surprisingly well – again, by ensuring that adjacent route lines have plenty of contrast between them. Note also that the background colour doesn’t shift in tone at all, giving predictable results for the routes themselves.

Compare the official Paris Metro map to the unofficial one featured yesterday, and things are quite different. The low contrast colour palette used causes many of the routes to turn into very similar shades of yellow and blue, and the background colour shifts completely from green-black to blue-black. While it is certainly still possible to trace the routes, it’s definitely harder on the eye to do so. And as I said yesterday, the workaround solution of tiny “rune” markers on each line is way too small to be of any practicable use.

In the end, a diagrammatic map will almost always be usable by a color blind person, simply because the simplified form will make it easy to trace routes, but more care must be taken the more complex the system becomes. Labelling end points of lines with a letter or number may also help where there are many route colours. A simple plugin like Vischeck allows a designer to quickly gauge how their work may be perceived by those with colour blindness, allowing them to tweak their chosen colours for optimal usage by all.