Historical Map: British Rail Network SouthEast, 1988
Network SouthEast was an operating division of British Rail that was formed in 1982 (although it was known as London & South Eastern until 1986). It was responsible for inter-city and commuter rail for the densely-populated south east of England, including London. Of course, beginning in 1994, Network SouthEast was privatised along with the rest of British Rail, leading to the convoluted network of private rail companies we see today.
But what we have here is a very handsome network map, which obviously owes a great deal to the London Underground map, but has enough of its own identity to stand alone. This is mainly achieved by the removal of the Underground’s distinctive Johnston Sans typeface, replaced with what looks like a condensed Helvetica or similar Gothic face.
The map is broken down into six regions, which are cleverly shown by only using three repeating colours (red, blue and grey): this prevents the map from looking too rainbow-like and gives it a more corporate feeling. A fourth colour — orange — is used to show the brand-new ThamesLink service running north-south through London.
The London region itself only shows main terminals and connecting stations: a more detailed map of this area is shown on the reverse of this map: this keeps the map clean and uncluttered.
About the only real problem I have with this map is the colour of the water, which is almost exactly the same as the blue type that is used to denote connecting ferry services and ports. For example, there’s a ferry to France from Newhaven Harbour, but it’s very difficult to make that out.
Our rating: An excellent example of mid-1980s map design (remember: this is still before computers entered the design field, so a map of this complexity was quite an undertaking). Four stars.
Unofficial Map: “Orbital” London Underground Map by Jonny Fisher
Here’s an interesting new look at the London Underground from architect/designer/writer Jonny Fisher. It’s always fun when someone reinterprets something as well known as this: every designer approaches the same problem differently. For me, this map isn’t wholly successful, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.
Have we been there? Yes.
What we like: A bold attempt at a redesign of possibly the most well-known transit map of all. The “orbital” theme actually makes a lot of sense: London already has a Circle Line, and the Overground does form a looser larger circle around that. As a map designer myself, I can certainly appreciate the skill and effort that’s gone into making this look as coherent and attractive as it does.
What we don’t like: Station labels set in all lower case text… ugh!
Inclusion of far-distant Thameslink stations like Brighton, Peterborough and Kings Lynn (97 miles from London and — from my understanding — no certainty to be a part of the final Thameslink Programme) is faintly ridiculous and leads to some awful crowding of station names in the north eastern quadrant of the map. Inclusion of the Tramlink services in southern London may have been more warranted, and would have helped with the “orbital” theme of the map.
Lack of differentiation betwen the different types of service shown, even in the legend, which opts for a pretty “rainbow” of route lines instead. The colours may be in order, but the types of services are all mixed up. As the Underground operates at far greater frequencies that the mainline and rail services, this is an important distinction to make.
Some of the bigger interchange stations are now inordinately large: it looks as if you have to traverse across large parts of London to change from the Circle Line to the Victoria Line at Kings Cross/St. Pancras, for example.
I miss the Thames.
Our rating: Interesting new look at something familiar, if flawed. Two-and-a-half stars.