Unofficial Map: “Barcelona Tourist Guide” Metro Map
As you should know, official transit maps are copyrighted materials. Commercial reproduction of the map by third parties normally requires permission and payment of a licence fee — often a hefty one.
A lot of people don’t want to pay that fee, so they design their own version of the map instead. This can result in maps that are eerily similar to the official one, nicely designed but different maps, or horrendous monstrosities. Guess which category this map falls into?
Have we been there? Yes. And with the official map (October 2011, 4.5 stars), the Metro is super easy to use.
What we like: At least the lines are the right colours.
What we don’t like: Sooooo ugly. Call-out boxes for every station waste space and look terrible. The worst example is Trinitat Nova station, which has two call-out boxes, one for Lines 3 and 11 and a separate one for Line 4, because the designer couldn’t work out how to have the three different line colours in the background of one call-out box.
Which way is north? Barcelona is actually oriented about halfway between the cardinal points, so giving some sort of directional indication on the Metro map is very important. The official map includes major roads, the coastline and a north pointer to help out: this map gives you nothing at all. What appears to be north here is actually north-east.
The integrated tram system is missing entirely, as there’s simply no room for it to fit. There’s actually a second map on the website for this system, where the main Metro map is tinted back without labels and the tram system is slapped on over the top.
Our rating: Hideous and confusing. I thought long and hard about giving this a zero, but surely there’s still something worse than this out there.
(Source: Barcelona Tourist Guide)
Not only is this an awesome picture, but it really shows off how the Barcelona Metro map is part of a greater, unified, wayfinding scheme. Here, on one panel, we’ve got a nice big map, information about the Metro, a complete cross-referenced list of stations, and a local area map showing the transportation options around the current station. Wonderful stuff.
Orientation - Barcelona
Love this photo of a giant backlit system map in Barcelona.
Find The Way
(Source: a l e x . k/Flickr)
Metrovalencia Map for Air Travelers
One of a series of nifty advertisements for the Metro system in Valencia, Spain. This one highlights the system’s connections to the airport (via Lines 3 and 5); I’ve also seen other ones that form the shape of a shopping bag (to showcase the connections to the shopping districts of the city), and a bicycle (to indicate that bicycles can be taken on the system).
These ads all tie into a previous iteration of the Metrovalencia map (this photo is from 2010), which has since made the switch from a diagram to a geographically accurate map (coming up in a future post).
(Source: Andrey Belenko/Flickr)
Historical Map: Metro de Madrid, 1981
Having had a look at Madrid’s current map (2.5 Stars), I thought we’d delve into the past and see what came before it. The first thing to notice is how much smaller the system was in 1981: only 10 Metro lines instead of 12 - and many of those are much shorter than now, and no light rail lines.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: A paragon of clean, functional transit map design. There’s great flow in this map, especially compared to the staccato, rigid, 90-degree matrix of the current map. Even without a legend, everything on this map is perfectly clear.
What we don’t like: Some minor station placement and labelling issues. Some route colours look similar (the 2 and 7, and the 9 and 10), but I think this is more to do with the age of the map that has been scanned than an issue with the design of the map itself.
Our rating: What can I say? I’m a sucker for simple, clean, well-designed maps. Four stars.
Photo: Metro de Barcelona
(Source: Matthew Wilkinson/Flickr)
Official Map: Metro de Madrid, Spain
Another map that asks the question: how much abstraction and geographical simplification is too much? From what I understand, this map of the Madrid Metro system has proved somewhat controversial since its introduction in 2007. Unlike most other diagrammatic maps, this one completely eschews even 45-degree angles: reducing the map to its most basic form - and one even further removed from the city’s underlying geography.
Have we been there? No, but would love to!
What we like:Clean, light and airy look. Definitely a map for a city that wants to place itself at the forefront of modern design and technology.
I absolutely love the way that interchange stations that have long walking distances between platforms are shown, and the estimated time is even indicated on the map (nine minutes to walk between the 4 and 6 lines at Diego de León station, for example). There are other systems - like New York and Barcelona - that could really use this on their map!
Limiting the colours denoting fare zones to the immediate area around the affected lines helps to keep the map clean and airy instead of having a big rainbow of concentric zones filling up the entire background of the map.
Symbology used on the map is very clear and distinctive. Available in separate Spanish and English (seen here) versions.
What we don’t like: Generally, the idea behind a diagrammatic presentation of a transit map is to smooth out the lines and evenly space the stations (wherever possible) so that a journey can be quickly and easily plotted by a user. Here, we have a strictly enforced 90-degree design and very unevenly spaced station names (the map is very empty in the centre, and extremely crowded out in the suburbs), both of which create a very stop-start, staccato feeling to the map. Any sense of relation to the actual geography city is lost - only the river and parks give any indication of that, and they aren’t particularly accurate either.
No accessibility information on the map, even though many of the older stations in the network are inaccessible due to their age.
Our rating: Visually bold and exciting, with some very nice ideas, but a lot of hard work to actually use. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Metro de Madrid website - English version)
Love this old wayfinding route map in the Madrid Metro.
(Source: Leticia Ayuso/Flickr)
Photo: Barcelona Wayfinding Signage
A excellent example of how strong transit map design is carried across to other elements of the user experience: here, strong and easily understood wayfinding signage in the Barcelona Metro.