Submission - Fantasy Map: The Internet Tube (worldwide submarine cable network)

Submitted by idleberg, smileandburn and others. Idleberg says:

Something I came across by accident, the “Internet Tube”, a map of the world’s network of submarine fibre-optic cables. Looks terrible to me, especially since one of the main point of interest, the geographical context, is barely noticeable.


Transit Maps says:

While I feel that the goal of this diagram — the simplification of a vast and complex nodal network down to its basic elements — is a laudable one, the execution leaves a lot to be desired for me. If anything, it’s too simple, leaving out detail that enables you to see how the network of cables actually works.

It seems that the network has been broken down into imaginary  ”route lines” with appropriate (if fanciful) names, rather than showing actual undersea cables. While this helps to group countries together thematically, it also could give viewers the idea (for example) that there’s one single cable that runs from the U.S. to Russia to Japan via the Arctic Ocean. There isn’t (yet), and Russia’s submarine cable connections are actually far more complex than could ever be shown on a diagram like this, relying more on cables under the Baltic and Black Seas than any “super cable” that’s implied here.

My other main issue with the diagram is the use of three-letter ISO country codes instead of actual country names. This makes the diagram unnecessarily obtuse — which country is represented by VCT? Or FSM or MNE? If H.C. Beck could fit “High Street Kensington” onto his original tube map, then a clone of his map should really be able to work with actual country names. Perhaps those names could then be supplemented with each country’s top level internet domain code (.au, .uk, etc), which makes far more sense for a map about the Internet than three-letter ISO codes.

Design-wise, it’s Yet Another Tube Map Clone (YATMC), right down to the route line colours and blue type for “station” labels. Yawn.

If you want a submarine cable network map that actually gives you some idea of how it all fits together and how staggeringly, mind-bendingly complex it all really is, then I highly recommend Greg’s Cable Map. Check it out and then realise how amazing it is that you can send an email to the other side of the world in milliseconds without any effort at all on your behalf.

Our rating: Tries hard to simplify an incredibly complex network, but through thematic and design choices, creates something that doesn’t really tell us much apart from the fact that there are cables under the sea and that some countries censor the Internet. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Source: Information Geographics at the Oxford Internet Institute

P.S. - VCT is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, FSM is the Federated States of Micronesia, and MNE is Montenegro.

Historical Map: Ghost Stations of the London Underground

The Underground has been around so long, and its famous Diagram so ingrained in our heads, that we tend to think of it as an immutable object: always the same, never changing. That’s absolutely not so, as this fantastic reworking of the Tube Diagram shows.

Shown here are the 40-plus “ghost stations” of the London Underground — stations that once existed as part of the “Tube”, but no longer do, for varying reasons. Some stations have since been demolished, but others have been transferred to operate under different services like the Overground or National Rail and still exist as a part of London’s greater transit network.

What’s really striking about this map is the huge reach of the Underground outside London. While only ever operated as a special “excursion” service, the journey to Shoeburyness (at the mouth of the Thames) from Central London on the District Line was around 45 miles (or 72 kilometres)! Heading out the other way, the furtherest reaches of “Metro-Land” at Brill and Verney Junction are some 60 miles (95 km) from the centre of the city.

Here’s the complete list on Wikipedia of all the stations shown, giving the reasons for closure and whether the station is still extant or demolished. Good reading!

(Source: Us vs. Them via Taras Grescoe)

Design Resource: Transport for London’s “Line Diagram Standards” Guide

Definitely worth a look to see how a major transit agency puts together a comprehensive guide to assembling consistently designed maps. The guide deals with horizontal in-car strip maps and the vertical line maps seen on platforms, but many of the principles still hold true for the design of a full transit map.

Of particular interest is the relationship between the x-height of Johnston Sans and the thickness of the route lines (they’re the same). This value of “x” is also used to calculate the radius of a curve in a route line: the innermost edge of a curve is always three times the value of “x” — never any less. Almost every relationship between objects on the map is defined mathematically, although the nomenclature can be a little less than intuitive sometimes: “x”, “n” and “CH” all make an appearance!

Also, if you ever wanted to know what the PANTONE or CMYK breakdowns for all the Underground route line colours are, this guide tells you that, too!

All in all, a really interesting read — just try and ignore the terrible typos that pop up here and there: “donated” instead of “denoted” on page 11 is my favourite! Click on the image or the link below to download the PDF.

(Source: Transport for London website - 2MB PDF)

Amended Tube Map removes Embankment Interchange for 2014 Works

Even design classics like the London Tube map have to be flexible enough to cope with change. The escalators to the Northern and Bakerloo lines at Embankment station — yes, the very escalators that can be seen in the previously posted cutaway diagram from 1914 — are going to be completely replaced.

The process is going to take 43 weeks starting on January 8 next year. During that time, Northern and Bakerloo trains will pass through Embankment without stopping, as there simply won’t be a way to get from their platforms to the surface or to the District/Circle Line platforms.

As a result, Embankment has been temporarily downgraded from an interchange ring on the map to a station tick, and moved away from the intersection between all the routes. It’s had to be moved quite a distance, because “Embankment” is quite a long name (no hyphenation of names on the Tube map!). As a result, Temple has been moved off the horizontal section of the District/Circle line and placed on the 45-degree segment along with Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street.

I personally don’t think that Temple needed to be moved off the horizontal section: Embankment and Temple could clearly be evenly spaced across the horizontal section — Embankment below the line, Temple above — without any confusion, as the station ticks would clearly “point” to their respective stations. Embankment’s label might have to slightly to the right compared to its tick, but it would be no worse than the placement of Westminster’s label. With these two stations on the horizontal segment, Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street could all retain their usual positions: I think this would create more even, harmonious spacing of all the stations than the map shown here.

Apparently, this map is appearing on some Northern Line trains but hasn’t been updated on the TfL site yet (and shouldn’t be until the work commences). 

(Source: Tweet by Ian Jones — @metro_land)

Photo: Tube Map Livery on GB Railfreight Engine 66721

A couple of great photos showing the unique Underground Map-themed livery on a GB Railfreight engine. The left side of the engine shows a portion of the original 1933 H.C. Beck design, while the right side shows the corresponding part of the 2013 Tube map. I believe that this engine  is used to perform maintenance work on sections of the Underground, so the theme is certainly appropriate, as is the engine’s name plaque, seen in the lower image — “Harry Beck”

(Source: Michael Thorne/Flickr — top image | bottom image)

Historical Poster: London Transport Jubilee Line Opening, 1979

Okay, here’s just one more Tube-map themed poster (for now). This one’s a little more contemporary than the others I’ve featured recently, dating from early 1979. The cheerful little Tube train — which looks like a model that’s been photographed, rather than an illustration —  is actually a pretty reasonable stand-in for the geographical layout of the new line, which then ran from Stanmore to a new Charing Cross station (later extensions mean that the Jubilee Line now bypasses Charing Cross entirely on its way to Stratford).

However, it does seem to be a bit of a cheat to say “And you don’t have to go on the Bakerloo (Line)”, when — prior to the Jubilee Line’s opening — every station between Stanmore and Baker Street was on that line (see this map from 1974).

Aesthetically, there is a bit of dissonance between the tightly-spaced 1970s-era type (looks like Franklin Gothic for the headings) and the classic look of the Johnston Sans used for the station names, but that’s just the way things often looked back then.

Quick trivia fact of the day: The Jubilee Line was originally going to be called the Fleet Line — after the River Fleet that now runs underneath London — until Conservative Party promises during the Greater London Council elections of 1977 caused it to be renamed after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, even though the line opened two years after the actual event. The Fleet Line’s proposed battleship grey colour (from the naval definition of “fleet”) was modified to a lighter silver/grey to fit the “Silver Jubilee” theme.

(Source: TimeOut’s London Blog — Top 5 Novelty Tube Maps)

Historical Poster: “Be Map Conscious”, London Transport, 1945

Here’s another beautiful old London Underground poster that features the Tube map, apparently produced to help servicemen unfamiliar with London get around. The poster, which basically acts as a Tube Map for Dummies guide, was placed next to the map in stations, with the abstract guard pointing towards it. The “tear-away” section at the bottom right shows a slightly modified version (angles aren’t at 45 degrees, the Aldwych spur is missing) of the central part of the map, which would have been this 1943 edition.

The artist was Polish-born Jan de Witt (1907-1991), signed as “Lewitt-Him” on the poster.

(Source: Creative Review)


Design for Shopping poster for London Transport, 1935

Design by O’Keeffe

via Mikey Ashworth

You just can’t beat 1930s London Underground posters - a superb mix of art, design and branding. This one’s a real beauty! Of interest is that it playfully echoes the look of Beck’s Tube Diagram, then only two years old.


Cute title. Made back in 2007, so the Circle Line is actually a loop, rather than the… ahh.. paperclip… it is now. Nicely done piece of whimsy.

(Source: Zach_ManchesterUK/Flickr)

Historical Map: Diagram of Tube Services, 7:00am, September 28, 1940

Here’s a fantastic historical document — a tube map used by engineers in London to mark out the status of services on the Underground during World War II. By the look of it, this map was updated at least daily, if not even more often, as this date falls squarely within the Blitz — a period where London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights by the Luftwaffe.

The map itself looks like a modified hand-drawn version of H.C. Beck’s 1936 Tube Diagram, with all stations shown as circles and some main line track added as well. The use of the map is simple: a red line along track shows that there is no service along that segment, while a blue circle (seen between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, for example) indicates the location of an exploded bomb. It would also seem that the circle for a station is also coloured red if it is substantially damaged or destroyed. Most horrifying of all, a red cross marks the location of an unexploded bomb. Notes written in a beautiful, precise hand add detail to these symbols where necessary — “unsafe buildings”, “single tunnel only available for traffic: SB tunnel damaged by bomb”.

Our rating: An incredible historical document that vividly recalls the dangers and horrors faced by Londoners during the Blitz. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: IanVisits/Flickr)