Great Big Transit Map: Barcelona Edition
Simply enormous map at the Estació de Barcelona-Sants, showing both the Metro and commuter rail networks. It’s made up of twenty-eight square screens, each of which looks pretty big in their own right!
Official Map: Madrid Metro Tourist Map
A few people have requested this recently-introduced “simplified” Metro map from Spain’s capital, so here goes…
Introduced with much fanfare earlier this month, this new version of the Madrid Metro map is aimed solely at visiting tourists, showing where all the main zones and points of interest are in relation to the comprehensive subway system.
This kind of map is hardly unique — London has had a central city bus map showing points of interest for years now (Feb 2012, 3.5 stars) — and this is not one of the more successful efforts in my eye. The Metro lines themselves are laid out clearly enough, in nice smooth, friendly, looping lines and the stations and main interchanges are easy to enough find. But the rest of the map just seems to be trying way too hard to be casual and inviting, with a weird clash of visual styles and typography.
There are some nice touches here and there — the scratchily-illustrated waves in the lakes are quite lovely — but there’s a lot that just looks slapdash as well. The illustrations for the points of interest look like run-of-the-mill clip art, with no real unique style (compare to the buildings on the London map, which are beautifully and uniformly drawn). The eight “zones of interest” could really use some colour-coding to differentiate them from each other, and the default Adobe Illustrator “scribble” effect used to shade them just looks weak.
The typography veers from trying too hard (the hipster hand-drawn block heading typfeace) to the downright ugly (is that condensed Comic Sans that’s being used to label the points of interest?).
Our rating: It does the job, I guess, but could have been so much more with a little more attention to detail and craftsmanship. Two stars.
Official Map: RENFE Cercanías Madrid Commuter Rail
Following on my review of Madrid’s old-is-new Metro Map (June 2013, 3.5 stars), I’ve had quite a few requests for Madrid’s commuter rail map, operated by the state-owned RENFE rail company — so here it is!
The map is a very solid effort, with unusual but effective station markers: small squares that “cut through” the route lines. The overall design is very angular, with no smoothing of the route lines or the zone boundaries that sit behind the map. It certainly helps give the map its own unique look, although I find it a little too harsh.
One negative is the ugly route designations — the bold “C” (perhaps trying to look somewhat like the Cercanías logo) next to a condensed numeral just looks odd and the placement of some of them seems arbitrary and/or cramped.
Finally, the depiction of zones on a transit map is almost always problematic: here, the harshly-angled and oddly-shaped grey areas dominate the map far too much, giving it a zebra-like appearance. The zones also require far too many labels, liberally sprinkled just about everywhere.
Our rating: Informational, with a look all of its own, but let down by a few jarring elements. Solid overall. Three stars.
(Source: Official RENFE website)
Official Map: Everything Old is New Again for the Madrid Metro
Over the weekend, Madrid rolled out a new map for its comprehensive Metro and light rail system. After six long and controversial years, the previous map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) — with everything reduced to severe 90-degree angles and very little spatial relationship to the real world — has been consigned to the dustbin.
In its place, a new map that looks strangely familiar. The design of the map has returned in-house and Metro’s designers have obviously looked to the more traditional maps of the past for inspiration: the layout in the central part of Madrid is almost identical to the 1981 map, even taking into account new route lines.
The map also features the Metro’s new controversy: the renaming of Sol station as “Vodafone Sol”, with the telephone company’s logo and distinctive red featured prominently on the map at that location (right in the middle!). Apparently, the cost of producing new maps and brochures is funded by this measure, so we can’t really complain too much, I guess…
Personally, I like this map much better than the previous one, although it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The treatment of terminus stations is clumsy and inconsistent, and the banded fare zones are too hard on the eye — much as they are on the current London Underground map. One thing I do miss from the previous map is the indication of how long (in minutes) transfers between platforms at the bigger interchange stations could take.
Our rating: A (welcome) blast from the past! Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Metro de Madrid website)
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.