Fantasy Map: 2014 Tour de France as a London Tube Map by Joe McNamara
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got nothing against the “… as a subway/tube map” design trope. Having created more than a few of this type of map myself, I’d be a pretty sad hypocrite if I said otherwise.
However, it does bug me when a map in this style fails to live up to the fundamental underlying design principles of the piece that inspired it, and that’s what’s happened here. Obviously drawing inspiration from H.C. Beck's famous Tube Diagram (the oversized LU roundel really driving the point home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), this map was created to commemorate the first few stages of this year's Tour de France being held in England. It’s a fun idea, and not without merit as a concept, but there’s far more to making a tube map than just putting some coloured route lines down on a page and calling it done.
Beck himself, ever in search of more simplification and rectilinearity in his Diagram, would simply not have approved of the twisty, torturous paths that these stage routes take. In his hands, Epernay to Nancy would have been represented by a simple straight segment (instead of needing three angle changes): Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne by a clean diagonal line. Yes, there’s a desire to indicate the relative lengths of each stage here (making this a map/diagram hybrid of sorts), but there has to be a simpler, cleaner, more Beck-like way to do it.
In my opinion, if you’re going to make such a big deal about the source of your homage, then a better adherence to the design principles espoused by that source can only make for a better end product. And I’m not talking about making a map that’s slavishly identical in every detail to the source: I have no problem with the substitution of what looks like Gotham for Johnston Sans, or the non-rounded corners where the routes change direction: that’s just window dressing on top of what really makes the Tube Map what it is — Beck’s never-ending quest for design clarity.
Source: via Gizmodo
Official Map: Southeastern Rail Network, England
Southeastern’s website contains the following blurb: “Our network covers London, Kent and parts of East Sussex. With 179 stations and over 1000 miles of track, we operate one of the busiest networks in the country. We also run the UK’s only high speed trains.”
They should really add: “We also have a network map that makes it almost impossible to work out where our trains actually go.” I mean, what is actually going on here? Leaving out the networks of connecting rail companies, there are two main Southeastern networks – the magenta Metro routes (London and surrounds) and the lime green mainline routes that extend out into Kent and East Sussex – but that’s about as much as this map really tells you.
You could probably assume that most Metro services start at one of the four London terminus stations shown, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess. If I get on at Victoria, where can I actually go? What happens at the apparent Y-junctions east of Barnehurst and Slade Green? Which way do trains go and could they actually loop all the way back to London? Nothing here tells me otherwise, so that’s an assumption that could be made by a user unfamiliar with the system.
Do the mainline trains start in London as well, or do I have to catch a Metro train out to, say, Sevenoaks and change trains there? The lime green routes are only shown outside London’s perimeter, after all.
It’s all just horribly ambiguous and unclear. It’s only after poking around on the Southeastern website that I found an alternate “lines of route” interactive map that makes some sense of things. There are actually six Metro routes and five mainline routes, four of which originate from London. The fifth – the Medway Valley line – runs from Tonbridge to Strood. Try working that out from the map.
Our rating: A prime example of style over substance. The map looks cool and all, but it doesn’t actually help a user plan a trip at all. Eleven routes isn’t that many: show them all from end to end so that people can easily determine where to get on a train, where to most efficiently interchange with other services and where they can get off. It’s really not that hard, people. One star.
Source: Southeastern Rail website
Photo: The Underground Map – Then and Now
A nicely executed little montage of Underground maps through the years. From left to right: what looks like the 1932 version of the F.H Stingemore map, the original 1933 H.C. Beck diagram, and a modern day Tube Map. I have to say, the Underground uniforms in the 1930s were a lot nicer than their modern counterparts!
Poster: Helping London Grow for the Future, Transport for London
London’s certainly come a long way since the Metropolitan Line first opened in 1863 with wooden carriages and steam engines. I wonder what a Victorian Londoner would think of this modern skyline, all soaring, glimmering, curving glass?
Helping London grow for the future. We’ve been serving London since 1863 and our continuing improvements will help you get around for the next 150 years.
Photo: We are Transforming Your Tube
Rather clever and well-executed “under construction” signage seen in Tottenham Court station back in 2010.
Source: Luigi Rosa/Flickr
Illustration: Southern Rail’s “Southern Adventure” Ad Campaign by Rod Hunt
Extremely nifty isometric “pixel art” illustration showing all the family-friendly adventures that can be had on England’s Southern Rail network. Probably not much use as an actual map, but it does name/highlight a lot of the useful stations and the activities that can be had in the region. A lot of fun to be had poring over the detailed illustration, and I love the pencilled rough for comparison.
The artist, Rod Hunt, is perhaps best known for his “Where’s Stig?” books – a kind of “Where’s Wally?*” for Top Gear fans.
(Yes, that’s “Where’s Waldo?” for the Americans, but not in its original English form.)
Compare the rough to the final artwork - Southern Railway’s “Southern Adventure” summer advertising campaign, imagining the rail network & many of the regions tourist attractions as a theme park. Can you find Loco Toledo, the campaign’s Mexican Wrestler?
See the full project here
Historical Map: Austrian Edition of Airey’s Railway Map of London, 1876
Simply beautiful rail line and junction map from the earliest days of what would become the London Underground. Extremely notable for its use of colour-coding to differentiate between the lines of all the different operating companies. In the days of chromolithographic printing, using this many different colours would have been an expensive, highly technical and time-consuming task.
The following text is taken from the raremaps.com description of this map:
Extremely rare early Austrian edition of John Airey’s famous Railway Junction Diagram of London (not in the British Library!).
The present map is an early Austrian edition of Airey’s most important single map, Airey’s Railway Map of London and its Suburbs, illustrating the innumerable railway lines leading out of London, and importantly depicting the earliest two lines of the new London Underground System, along with at least one proposed line which was never constructed. Airey published his first edition of the map under that title in 1875, which subsequently ran into several editions. It, in turn, was based on a map that appeared in Airey’s book, Railway Map Diagrams (London, 1867).
The map’s fascinating an innovative visual composition was originally conceived as part of a series of diagrams illustrating the rapidly expanding routes of the various railways throughout Britain. With its carefully placed and labeled colored lines, it is the true precursor to Henry Beck’s celebrated London Underground Map of 1933. In this sense, Airey’s maps were the first truly modern rail transport maps, and they set the gold standard for such publications throughout Europe and America.
London was the first major city to be served by railways (a technology invented in 1830), with the first line connecting London Bridge and Greenwich being completed in 1836. During the ‘Railway Boom’ of the 1840s, eight new lines were added connecting London with the countryside in virtually every direction. Since that time, two new major lines had been added and new spurs had been built to access different parts of the city. Airey was commissioned to produce his diagrams by the Railway Clearing House (RHC), founded in 1842, it acted as an umbrella organization to collect and manage revenue from the various independent railway lines.
Perhaps the most important aspects of the map are the inclusion of the World’s first two Underground (or Subway Lines), the Metropolitan Line and the Metropolitan District Line (the original components of today’s District and Circle Lines). The Metropolitan Line was first opened in January 1863, while the District Metropolitan was completed in December 1868. Airey’s diagram shows how the new medium of the Underground integrated with the established railways.
The map also records the proposed location for one of the early underground lines which was never constructed, the London Central Railway. The London Central Railway was formed in late 1871 for an unsuccessful north-south promotion sponsored by the Midland Railway and the South Eastern Railway, for a link between St Pancras and Charing Cross Stations. The name again surfaced In 1884, when a London Central Railway Company sought unsuccessfully for authority to build an electrically operated line from Trafalgar Square to St Martins-le-Grand via Oxford Circus and Oxford Street. This was intended to be an extension of the Charing Cross & Waterloo Electric Railway (now part of the Bakerloo line). This was authorized in 1882 but never built.
The present, apparently unrecorded, edition of the map, may have been first published in 1876 in Vienna by the publishing firm of R. v. Waldheim, a leading house specializing in newspapers, music books and lithographic prints. From the inscription in the upper-right corner, it seems that the present map was originally issued within a book. While it is not clear which publication it is, it is possible that the map was associated with a later edition of the rare work Die Concurrenz im Eisenbahnwesen, a railway book first published by Waldheim in 1873. In any event, it is a fascinating testament to the contemporary pan-European fascination with Airey’s groundbreaking cartography.
Our rating: Simply beautiful: detailed in scope, but amazingly clear and simple in execution. Five stars.
Image source: Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.
Historical Map: The “Zéró” London Underground Diagram, 1938
Although clearly based on the H.C. Beck diagram of the period (which was only five years old at the time), this diagram created and printed entirely without Beck’s knowledge. Although the work is unsigned, it is now known that this map was designed by Hans Schleger – perhaps better known by his pseudonym “Zéró” – who had already created a number of memorable posters for London Transport.
Beck was furious, and he wasted no time in letting London Transport know exactly what he thought:
I have just happened to see a proof of a new Underground folder. The “H.C. Beck” diagram has been used, but with considerable and, I suggest, undesirable, alternations by another artist – one not on the staff – without reference to me.
The idea of redesigning the old geographical Underground map in diagram form was conceived by me in 1931; the original diagram, published in 1932 [sic: 1933] was of my own invention and design. Every variation of it since has been either made by me or by the lithographer under my supervision.
When I recently signed a form assigning the copyright of this design to the Board, it was not merely understood, but was promised, that I should continue to make, or edit and direct, any alterations that might have to be made to the design. This practice has been followed without exception since 1932.
I wish therefore to place on record my protest against the action taken in the present instance.
London Transport’s Publicity Officer, Christian Barman, managed to placate Beck, telling him that the new map was meant as an experiment in background shading only, and that “neither Mr. Patmore nor myself quite realised how far [the artist] had gone before we saw a proof.” His response, however, stopped short of assuring Beck that all future amendments to the map would be assigned to him…
As for the map itself, Beck’s assessment is pretty much spot on: the alterations are mostly undesirable. The graduated blue background – meant to highlight the central part of the map – is distracting and interferes with the legibility of type, especially when they are set in green type. The reversal of the Thames from white to blue where it cuts through this prototypical Zone 1 is also very visually distracting.
However, the use of a single circle for interchange stations is actually far simpler than what Beck was using at the time – many stations had two circles, and Hammersmith used three! Beck would experiment with linked “Olympic Ring” circles and other arrangements before setting on the now familiar and ubiquitous “barbell” connector in 1946.
Also of noteis the depiction of planned extensions to the Northern Line that were never completed due to the outbreak of World War II.
Our rating: An evolutionary dead end in the development of the Tube Map, but also the first indication that Beck’s position as the map’s guardian wasn’t as solid as he liked to think. Three stars.
Source: bananastrudel on Etsy
Historical Map: Map of Glasgow Corporation Transport Services, c. 1934
A handsomely drawn map that does some sterling work with just three colours (a very modern combination of black, cyan and magenta!).
Of particular note is the clever way that a solid magenta line (bus service), can be combined with a dashed black line (trams) to indicate where both types of transportation share the same route without having to draw two separate lines. Interestingly, buses appear to have route numbers, while trams are designated by their final destination only.
Glasgow’s single circular subway line is shown in nicely contrasting cyan, as are neighbourhood labels and the River Clyde.
Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World
Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:
I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.
You can see all the maps here.
Transit Maps says:
You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.
Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.
I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.
You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale!