Historical Map: “Visitor’s London” Tourist Map and Guide, 1959

The inset central zone London Underground map is a black and white version of Beck’s diagram from the same year, but really, this is all about the fantastic illustrations (by Peter Roberson) and groovy mid-century graphic design. There’s only two colours used here – black and pink – but they’ve been used in a very striking and eye-catching way.

I wonder what was on the reverse of this?

Source: smallritual/Flickr


A Note on the Making of Oklahoma City’s Transit Map

I recently had a pleasure of designing a system map for EMBARK, Oklahoma City’s transit agency. The network is being made both more frequent and more direct to meet a growing demand. Oklahoma City is often compared to Austin, Texas for their effort to re-imagine the state’s biggest city to be less car-depended and more human-scale and user-friendly. I’m proud to be a part of that evolution.

Download EMBARK system map brochure (PDF)

I didn’t want to move away from geographically-accurate representation completely, but rather settle somewhere in between: The map is not quite a GIS-overlay, but neither it is a subway-style diagrammatic map. This hybrid approach had already been deployed  by Kick Map (http://www.kickmap.com/) and CHK America elsewhere (see the map CHK America created for Spokane Transit). I wanted to replicate the simplicity and usability of those maps.

 Oklahoma City’s gridded geography naturally fits that format.

The map’s layout is based on a modular grid. Each module is about 100  points across, which roughly corresponds to the city’s one-mile mega block, which consists of regular-sized blocks bound by arterial roads:

Taking advantage of the existing geography, I started it out with 45 and 90-degree angles, but had to add additional increments to follow the geography more closely:

Because buses do not run on every street, it made sense to only label the transit streets and the streets leading up to them. Rest of geographic features were allowed to “fade away”: 

Finally, icons play a major role in calling out major destinations located along bus routes. Visually unified with the brand style, they  work just as well at small sizes as they do at big sizes:

Download EMBARK system map brochure (PDF)

Can’t believe I haven’t reblogged this already. Great overview of the process behind a new, stylish, modern, usable system map for a smaller transit agency.

My favourite thing – and something map designers need to always bear in mind – is the beautiful, simple icons used. Icons on a map often have to work at very small sizes, so each one needs its own distinctive “shape” to quickly differentiate between them. The “squint test” is always a good thing to do: print your icons out, put them a decent distance away and look at them through half-closed eyes. If you can still identify each icon’s basic shape or outline, you’re in business. If they all just start looking like a generic blob… it’s time to redesign and refine!

jmuys Asked
QuestionWhat typeface did you use for your US maps? So beautiful! Answer

It’s Adobe’s open-source (i.e., free to download and use) Source Sans Pro. And yes, it is rather lovely!

Historical Map: Working Sketch for 1979 New York Subway Map by Nobu Siraisi

As you might probably guess, I’m not really that fond of the current New York Subway map, although its longevity is certainly to be respected. It was first revealed to the public in 1979, and — despite revisions, service changes and disasters — has remained pretty much the same ever since.

However, this preliminary sketch by designer Nobu Siraisi, collaborating with Michael Hertz on that map, is nothing short of delightful. It looks like it was made in an effort to untangle the web of route lines around the busy Atlantic Avenue station with an eye on label placement as well. Note that the label for Grand Army Plaza station has been erased from the right hand side of the route lines and redrawn to the left. It’s also interesting to see just how much cleaner and legible even this spaghetti-strand map is without the underlying street grid of the full map.

The interview in the Gothamist that this image came from is definitely worth reading, although Michael Hertz certainly has a very rose-tinted view of how his map replaced the Vignelli diagram that came before it.

Source: Gothamist interview with Michael Hertz in 2007, via Aaron Reiss (Twitter)

Highways Project Print Sample!

I got my first test print back from the printers today: a sample of the Texas map. Basically, I’m ecstatic with the way things are looking – all the research and effort I’ve put into this over the last one-and-a-half years is so, so worth it. Just a few more little behind the scenes things to put into place and I’ll be ready to share this project with you all.

Have I mentioned that I’m excited?

For comparison purposes, here’s some original concept work that shows the same area around San Antonio from way back in June 2012 – things have come a long way since then!

  1. Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  2. Aperture: f/3.5
  3. Exposure: 1/60th
  4. Focal Length: 75mm

Graphic Fix: Change Background Color of Text Box in Illustrator

Problem: My Kentucky Ave label overlaps with objects below it, resulting in a cluttered appearance. Turns out, there is a super easy fix for something like this!

1.Create the Area Text (text box).
2. Select the Area Text with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow). 
3. In the Appearance panel select desired background fill color and adjust Transparency to your heart’s content.  Your labels should now look like the Western Ave label on the picture. 
4. With the text frame selected, drag and drop the new Fill onto the Graphic Styles panel to re-use it later. 


Transit Maps says:

This is a great tip for people who use Area Text in Illustrator — that is, dragging out a text box for type to fit into, rather than just clicking once to use Point Type. The crux of this tip is using the Direct Selection tool to select the text frame only, otherwise Illustrator wants to apply the fill to the type contained within it. Silly old Illustrator!

If you’re like me, and you don’t like to use the Area Type tool, you can always position a new frame beneath your type and apply the required fill/transparency to that instead.

An alternative way to separate your type from an object that it overlaps would be to apply a stroke to your text, which I covered in this post back in November.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionCould you do a discussion of font choice. Examples of good, bad, cool & unusual. Maybe even your top 5 or 10. Answer

I actually dealt pretty comprehensively with type in transit maps in a series early last year:

If I had to pick some favourites, I’d probably have to go with DIN, Frutiger, Myriad Pro (if only for the variety of widths it comes in), FF Meta (in its lighter weights) and Source Sans Pro, an open-source, free-to-use typeface from Adobe. Helvetica, although much-used, actually has some legibility issues at smaller sizes that make it somewhat unsuited for this use.

In general, the best typefaces for transit maps and wayfinding are clear and legible, with good differentiation between similar characters. A good test is to see if “1”, “l” and “I” look different to each other (that’s a numeral “one”, a lower-case “L” and a capital “i”, if you can’t tell them apart).

Tutorial: Using Illustrator or Photoshop to Check Your Design for Colour-Blind Accessibility

Here’s a simple little trick that works in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop CS4 and above: You can quickly check your artwork to see how it might appear for a colour-blind user by simply going to the View menu > Proof Setup, then choosing one of the two colour-blind profiles at the bottom of the list. Then select View > Proof Colors (Cmd/Ctrl-Y in Photoshop).

As you can see from the GIF above, the results can be quite startling: everything becomes varying shades of blue and an ugly, muddy yellow. It definitely shows why identification of different routes (either by naming them directly on the map, or by using a clear legend) is so important. Another thing to bear in mind is the contrast between parallel route lines: more contrast means that they are easier to trace from end to end with a minimum of confusion, regardless of the user’s vision.

I definitely recommend adding this simple test to your workflow: it may not be completely accurate for every variation of colour-blindness, but it will give you a quick overview so that your design can be better informed.

See also this post from November 2011, where I compared the colour-blindness accessibility of different transit maps.

EDIT: An earlier version of this post only mentioned proofing in Photoshop, neglecting the fact you can do the exact same thing in Illustrator. Thanks to Oran Viriyincy and Xavier Fung for reminding me about this.

Breaking News! Illustrator CC’s “Live Corners” Are AMAZING!

Yesterday, Adobe released updates to many of their Creative Cloud applications, including Illustrator (which is now at version 17.1, if you can believe it!).For me, the absolute standout feature is “Live Corners”, which is a game changer for the design and production of transit maps. Gone are the inconsistent and unpredictable results produced by the "Round Corners" effect, and my trusty but time-consuming workaround — using a set of master curves and manually cutting-and-pasting them into the artwork — would now seem to be a thing of the past.

Using Live Corners couldn’t be easier: simply use the Direct Selection (white-tipped) arrow to select the point that you want to edit. A new little circular widget should appear next to the point. If you can’t see it, go to the View menu and select “Show Corner Widgets”.

Double-click on the widget to bring up the new “Corners” dialog box, where you can choose the type of corner you’d like: curve, reverse curve or bevel. Then, enter your required value for the radius of the curve, which is finally, finally, an actual real radius measured from the centre point of the curve.

The “Rounding” options allow you to choose between relative and absolute methods of defining the corner. Absolute gives the most accurate results, while relative values seem to give an (unacceptably) exaggerated sharpness to the curve. Click “OK” and you’re done!

In my example, I’ve used an 8 point radius for both Yellow Lines, and a 16 point radius for the Red Lines. As you can see, the resulting corner curves all have identical centre points, regardless of whether the curve is at 90 or 135 degrees! I’ve also tested with a range of other angles and results are perfect every time.

Put simply, this is a huge time-saver and will ensure consistent — but still editable — results every time. I just wish this feature had turned up before I manually added curves to 90 percent of my new US Highways/Interstate map!

Tokyo Metro: Trains of the Passnet Companies Collectible Farecard

Not a transit map, but too darn cute to not share with you.

From the same series of collectible Passnet cards as this nifty Tokyo Metro map, this card shows an adorably stylised train for each of the (22!) rail companies that participated in the Passnet program.

(Source: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr)