All Aboard the Orient Express!

Here’s an absolutely charming little map found on the inside of a French model train set box lid. I don’t have a definitive date for this, but it does have a lovely retro feel to it.

The map itself isn’t much help, as it’s pretty much a work of fiction: a weird combination of different parts of the Orient Express’s historical routes (see this diagram on Wikipedia) and a branch to Warsaw via Prague that was never part of the train’s itinerary.

Maybe, as simple artwork intended for a children’s toy, the designers were simply thinking that no one would notice any inaccuracies. Looks great, though!

(Source: japanese forms/Flickr)

Official Map: Bus and Tram Network Map, Strasbourg, France

In general, I hold European transit maps in better regard than maps from other parts of the world. Crisp, clear European graphic design and transit maps just seem to be made for each other! Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule, and this map from the Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS) in Strasbourg, France is one of those exceptions.

Have we been there? Yes, in December 2003. I found the trams pretty easy to navigate at the time.

What we like: Not a lot. Seriously, this thing hurts my eyes.

What we don’t like: Ugly, ugly, ugly. Black edges on all the route lines makes the map look very heavy, despite its light yellow background.

The typography is extremely poor - the main typeface used is Helvetica Neue, but it has been horizontally scaled to create a faux condensed version, instead of using the actual Helvetica Neue Condensed font. Even worse, the amount of scaling it has been given varies from place to place across the map, depending on how much text the designers need to squeeze in. And squeeze it in they must, because the centre of the map is absolutely jam-packed with routes, station names and icons. Not helping this cramped feeling are the enormous boxed-in route terminus names and the biggest (and possibly ugliest) Park-and-Ride icons I’ve ever seen.

There’s also an error in the legend: Stops that only serve one direction should be shown as a dot with a black arrow pointing in the direction of travel, but the legend shows no station marker at all.

Our rating: Yuck. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

(Source: Official CTS website)