That’s a pretty nifty deal just in time for Christmas! If you’ve been thinking of picking up one of my maps for yourself or as a gift, this just might be the time to do it. Just follow the links below to be eligible for the discount. Offer expires at midnight Pacific Time, this Sunday, December 8th — so get in while you can!
Interstates as Subway Map
US Routes as Subway Map
Boston Rapid Transit and Bus Routes
Boston Rapid Transit Routes (no buses)
Amtrak Passenger Routes as Subway Map
International E-Roads of Europe
TGV Routes of France
Rail Transit of Portland, Oregon
Passenger Rail of Portland 1915 - 1943 - 2015
Plans for the New York Subway, 1920
If you’re interested in any of my photography products, click here to browse my Society6 store and receive the same free shipping and $5 discount.*
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Tutorial: Station Labels Using the “Core Type Area” - Part 2: 45-Degree Angled Route Lines
Following on from last week’s tutorial, here’s how to use the Core Type Area to make your station labels align perfectly and consistently when you’re applying them to 45-degree angled route lines.
If you use the edges of the Core Type Area when you’re aligning labels to horizontal and vertical route lines, then it should make perfect sense that you use the corners of it when you’re labelling angled stations. The first GIF shows the defining setup — using the bottom right corner for labels above and to the left of the route line and the top left corner for labels below and to the right of the route line. I’ve shown this setup first because it always looks right: there’s always a capital letter in the former, and the bottom right edge of a lower-case letter in the latter.
The second image shows what happens when you apply the same rules to the opposite angle. That is, using the top right corner for names to the left and below the route line, and the bottom left corner for names above and to the right. When the route line is angled like this, it can be harder to see that you’ve got the placement right, because the letterforms are more varied.
In the first instance, the last letter of a word could be an “n” (as we have here) or a “d”. We need to allow space for the “d” to fit comfortably, hence the use of the Core Type Area, which shows us exactly that. Whatever you do, don’t nudge labels without a final ascender up until that letter aligns with the station marker: this is what leads to uneven and inconsistent baselines as seen on the recent Sydney Trains map redesign.
Labels to the right and above aren’t quite as bad, but there’s still some variance: the first letter could be a “T”, “B”, or “W”, all of which have a different visual relationship to that bottom left corner. Remember to use the Core Type Area — the box that defines the maximum size the label could take up — and not the letterforms themselves to align text to markers and you should always be okay.
The last image shows a mistake I see quite often when designers try to align their labels to 45-degree lines by simply moving the label sideways from the marker, instead of across and up/down an even amount. I personally prefer not to do this, as I think it creates uneven spacing, but it can look effective and interesting when done right.
However, be aware that labels that sit on the lower side of the route line need to hang from the top of the Core Type Area (by their cap height) or they’ll end up being too close to the route line, as shown in the image. Type that sits on the higher side of the route line can sit on its baseline.
Tutorial: Station Labels Using the “Core Type Area” - Part 1: Horizontal and Vertical Route Lines
A lot of transit maps that I’ve seen and reviewed on this blog are badly let down by their labelling. Sometimes it seems that the labels have been applied without much forethought or planning, or just slapped on at the end and placed wherever they will fit. But labels are arguably one of the most important parts of a transit map: it should always be immediately apparent which station marker a label belongs to, and labels should be applied according to a consistent set of rules.
My first common rule is to make sure that there’s enough space between the route line or station marker and the text: I see way too many maps where the labels are jammed right up to the line (often in a vain effort to save a little bit of space).
That said, let’s take a look at how I like to approach labels on my maps. The first image shows a sample label: I chose the name “Washington” simply because it has a good mix of letters that work well as an example: importantly, it has both ascending and descending letters. I’ve marked out the four main vertical typographical elements: these are the cap height, the x-height, the text’s baseline and the descender line.
Behind this, I’ve shaded an area in pink that I like to call the “Core Type Area” — the height from the baseline up to the cap height. I use this Core Type Area to determine how to align labels to other elements of the map. I discount the height of the letters below the baseline simply because sometimes a word doesn’t have any descending letters at all. This becomes important when setting up labels that sit above a horizontal route line, as we’ll see below.
The second image is an animated GIF that shows two different ways to align labels to station markers on a vertical route line. It shows magenta guides indicating the Core Type Area and thicker cyan guides that simply indicate that all the labels are a consistent difference away from their station marker. I’ve shown the two most common types of station marker: dots and ticks.
The first and third sets of labels centre the type vertically using the baseline and the x-height, while the second and fourth use the height of the Core Type Area. Both of these approaches produce good results, although I personally believe that the Core Type Area method looks slightly better regardless of whether the label is to the left or the right of the line.
The last GIF shows how using the Core Type Area gives consistent results when placing labels above and below a horizontal route line. As you can see, the cyan guides are the same length each time, but though we align labels beneath the route line to the cap height (the top of the Core Type Area), we align labels that are above the route line to the type’s baseline (the bottom of the Core Type Area), not the descender line. That’s because a lot of words don’t have any descenders in them: in these cases, the label would look as if they were too far away from the station marker in comparison to labels that are below the line. The trick here is to make sure you’ve got enough space between the descender line and your station marker/route line to ensure that they don’t touch or overlap.
Next time, we’ll tackle labels on diagonal route lines.
Fantasy Map: Mente Subterránea by Miguel Andrés, 2010
Thanks to reader alber for pointing me to this, a nicely different take on the “brain as subway map” theme. This one seems to be based more on medical fact than the HSBC ad I featured this morning, though that does mean that the route lines are a little wobblier and less adherent to a 45-degree grid than I’d normally like to see.
The routes seem to be named after parts of the brain, with intermediate stops representing what that part is responsible for: “Dreams”, “Aggressiveness”, “Object Names”, etc. Interchange stations represent major functional centres in the brain, giving us the rather charmingly-named “Medulla Main Station” and “Gustatory Cortex Gardens”, among others.
A nicely cheeky “MIND” logo that echoes the famous London Underground roundel finishes things off nicely. About the only thing I don’t care for is the somewhat ugly compass rose, although it does seem to cleverly indicate the “left” and “right” sides of the brain, rather than compass directions.
One last thing: why is the left eye pointing in a different direction to the right?
(Source: Miguel Andrés’ website)
Fantasy Map: “Brain” Subway for HSBC Ad Campaign by Triboro Designs
A nicely executed concept, and better drawn than a lot of actual subway maps (Note the nicely nested curves when multiple route lines change direction!). Not quite sure what’s going on with the light green route as it crosses over the central trunk, but hey… it’s a BRAIN, not a real transit system.
(Source: Triboro Designs website)
I’m very pleased to announce that my Interstates as a Subway Map and U.S. Highways as a Subway Map posters are once again available for purchase directly through my website this holiday season.
I’ve even made some revisions to the Interstate map to bring it up to date. These include the addition of the brand new Interstate 2 in Texas, a new segment of I-49 in Missouri and a new section of I-74 in North Carolina.
The posters are 36” wide by 24” deep, and are once again superbly printed by Wallblank. I’ve been working with them for four years now, and they always do a great job for me. They’re ready to get printing, so orders will be on their way to you quickly!
As previously, each poster is available individually for just $39 plus shipping — but you can also order a Combo Pack: one of each poster for just $68 plus shipping (a $10 saving).
Please visit my personal site to place your order.
Please reblog to spread the word!
Here’s a fantastic follow-up post from Owen Lett (the man who brought you this neat fantasy transit map of Victoria, BC) in response to yesterday’s tutorial about point type in Illustrator.
There’s a lot to like about this approach, especially the integrated type point and station marker (two overlaid points define both elements and both can be placed simultaneously) and the use of paragraph styles (an often-overlooked feature in Adobe Illustrator) gives the ability to quickly change things if required later on. The downside is the need to adjust margins via the tedious Character palette, although is that actually any worse than manually nudging with arrow keys?
This post is in response to Cameron Booth’s Point Type Label tutorial on his rather excellent Transit Maps blog. I’m writing this here because it feels a bit more efficient than bombarding him with a few dozen tweets.
I too use point type for labels on transit maps. But I also like to integrate paragraph and character styles wherever possible. I do this because, in theory, it makes it easier if I decide much later that I need to make a broad sweeping change (like choosing a new typeface or updating the character colour).
What I’ve also found is that by adjusting indents and baseline shifts, I can place the text point right in the middle of a station dot or at the intersection of two gridlines (see the second and third pictures for example; I’ve also shown how it can work for different station markers). If you’re using Smart Guides, everything should snap nicely into place.
Here’s a sample set up, which you can see in the first picture:
- A character style for the basics, such as font family, size, leading, tracking, colour. I made a second style for a terminus station which is the same as the base, but with bold weight.
- A number of paragraph styles for a variety of station type alignments. Here I’ve got a map with lines at 45 degree angles, so I’ve eight styles and named them after compass directions.
- I made one bonus style to show how you can set one up for text that’s been rotated (and yet the text point remains in the middle of the station marker).
Now the whole point of Mr. Booth’s post was to show that Illustrator doesn’t actually align text precisely; some manual adjustment is necessary to get everything looking optically correct. He moved each label manually. My method doesn’t solve the problem of requiring some adjustment. But now instead of moving each label, you leave the label in place and adjust the left or right paragraph indent (see last picture).
There are some downsides to this technique The primary problem I run into is with multiple line station labels. If the label has a positive baseline shift, then you’re going to need to update the baseline manually or create a new paragraph style. And then you might start to end up with an unwieldy amount of styles.
Another downside here is that manual adjustments override the paragraph style. So if you update the style at a later date, it may not affect something you’ve adjusted manually (it depends on what you’re updating).
Lastly, there is the issue of Illustrator itself. Its paragraph and character styles palette just isn’t that great, especially compared to InDesign. I don’t blame it; Illustrator is meant for… illustration. But having spent years building books in InDesign, you really notice what’s missing in Illustrator’s style options. InDesign has so much more; you can create keyboard shortcuts for specific styles, you can have styles based on other styles, you can reorder the styles. Illustrator does well, but I often find myself frustrated with it.
Is this an ideal solution? Not entirely. it is very mathematical, so to get everything looking perfect you’re still going to need to do a lot of eyeball adjustments. However, I find it’s a good way to get everything set up initially and keep things consistent throughout a project.
Tutorial: Working with Point Type Labels in Adobe Illustrator
Here’s a small but important tip when it comes to working with station labels in Adobe Illustrator. Most of the time, it’s easier to use what Illustrator calls point type when setting labels — that is, you click once with the Type Tool and then type your text, rather than dragging out a text frame with the tool. It looks neater in wireframe view and is generally less cumbersome to work with.
However, you need to be aware that the text you type almost never aligns with the point that you’ve created. Because of the letter spacing that’s baked into each character, there’s a small — but noticeable — gap between the point and the adjacent character (the last letter if the type is right-aligned; the first if it’s left-aligned).
Take the example above. I’ve drawn up a quick “Red Line” with station ticks to the left and right. I’ve then drawn cyan guidelines at the distance away from those station markers that I want the text to be. The fanciful station names simply illustrate a variety of starting or ending letterforms — straight, rounded, and so on.
As you can see on the example on the left, although the text point is perfectly aligned to the guides, the letters actually never quite touch them. Worse, the gap is a little bit different in each case. It may not look like much, but consistency is the key in well-designed transit maps. In my opinion, the little details like this are worth fussing over to create the very best work.
The sample to the right shows the difference when you individually nudge the labels across so that the text touches the guideline: much better! Note that the rounded letterforms overlap the guidelines slightly, while straight-edged letters like “d” at the end of a word or “B” at the beginning align perfectly. Much as rounded lowercase letters like “o”, “e” and “s” actually sit a little below the baseline, so too do these characters need to sit a little across the guidelines here to look optically correct. It’s the same for the initial “J” and “T” in the left-aligned names: the empty space around the characters needs to be compensated for slightly to look right.
Stay tuned for more tips regarding labels, as I think their implementation is one of the most neglected parts of transit map design.
Unofficial Map: Beijing Subway by Cameron Hughes
Submitted by slutzilla, who says:
Hi Cameron, fellow Cameron here! I recently redesigned the Beijing Subway map for an Information Design class (as well as doing a little bit of rebranding and signage/wayfinding design). It’s still a work in progress so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! You can view the entire project as well as a full-size PDF here.
Transit Maps says:
Looks like an interesting (and somewhat daunting) project! I think you’ve hit the right notes with the logo — the colours are very well chosen and the type is suitably bouncy and friendly. I do wonder whether the Beijing subway would ever actually adopt a logo using an English acronym made out of English characters, but I’ll let that slide because I like it. I especially like the cropped application of it on the subway fare card… nice!
But on to the map.
Other Cameron said that she made it for an Information Design class, so let’s approach it from that point of view. For me, while the map looks very pleasant at first glance, there’s quite a few serious problems that hinder its usefulness as a piece of informational design.
First — and an absolute deal-breaker in my eyes — is that the size of the type is way too small. The PDF of the map is set up at poster size: 36 inches wide by 45 inches deep. Yet the labels for the stations are set in 7-point type. That’s as small as the type on the sports results pages or those disclaimers at the bottom of car ads in a newspaper! It’s barely readable at a close distance, and absolutely invisible in a real world setting — at a station, or inside a moving, crowded subway car. By comparison, if the Washington DC map was at the same width as this poster, the station labels would be set at approximately 26 points, or over three-and-a-half times larger!
Another huge problem is the lack of identifiers on the map that link the route lines to the map’s legend. Each line should have its number or name denoted on the map so that people can cross-reference it to the legend. At the moment, you have to rely solely on colour to determine which line runs where, and that is Not A Good Thing. Even for non-colour-blind users, there’s a quite a few similar-looking colours on the map, as you’d expect with 17 operating lines and five future ones. Once you introduce colour-blindness into the equation, the map is basically useless. Cameron already has line number icons created as part of her wayfinding system, so it shouldn’t be a problem to add them to the map.
SIDE NOTE: Did you know you can simulate colour-blindness in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and above? Simply choose: View menu > Proof Setup > Color Blindness - Protanopia-type or Color Blindness - Deuteranopia-type. I definitely recommend this as a testing step in any information design work!
The map prominently features background concentric rings, but doesn’t tell you what they are. Reading Cameron’s summary of the project, I found out that they’re meant to represent Beijing’s system of ring roads. However, this type of shading is almost always used on transit maps to represent fare zones, so there’s huge potential for confusion here (For the record, Beijing has a flat fare of 2¥ across the entire subway, except for the Airport Express, which costs 25¥). The rings also interfere with the underlying checkerboard pattern for the map’s grid, making it harder to use.
Speaking of the Airport Express, it would be a good idea to indicate that the train goes to Terminal 3 first, then Terminal 2, then back to Beijing.
A few other notes not related to the informational aspect of the map:
I’d prefer to see the three boxes at the bottom of the map combined into one larger one, just for a cleaner, more unified look.
Because of the concentric rings, the map is crying out to be centred horizontally on the page. At the moment, it’s too far to the left, but only because the subway logo at the top right is so large.
I also feel the icons need a little bit more work to unify them. At the moment, most of them are flat, front-on representations, but the “Temple of Heaven” and the “789 Space” icons have a three-dimensional feel to them that separates them from the rest, while the “Beijing Zoo” icon looks uncomfortably like Cameron has just flipped the World Wildlife Fund logo horizontally. While the actual Beijing Zoo logo also features a similar-looking panda, this icon needs some of its own unique character to stand apart from either of these logos.
Finally, I feel like the “circle/rings” motif could be pushed a little further. The further out from the middle of the map we get, the less that the route lines adhere to this design idea. The north-east and south-west sections of the purple Line 14 stand out the most: they follow a curve, but it’s not related to the main set of rings.
At the moment, this map seems to me to be a bit of style over substance. It looks clean, fresh and modern, but has some serious usability issues when you look at it from a information design viewpoint.
Tutorial: Multiple Strokes on One Path
This little tip is thanks to RG, who left a comment on the site asking:
“Can you comment on how you make the 2pt of white space between lines show when you have lines cross over each other?”
On most transit maps, route lines will cross over each other at various points. Most of the time, an interchange station exists at that point and the symbol for that covers up the lines as they cross. However, sometimes the route lines will cross without any interaction between them — maybe there’s a bridge, or the lines are in separate tunnels — and it’s a good idea to visually separate them to make that as clear as possible.
STEP 1 above shows the set up: the Red and Blue lines cross over the Yellow and Green lines. As in the last tutorial, these are 8-point-thick lines set on a 10-point grid: I’ll use this a lot, just because it makes the maths easier to follow.
As you can see, the resulting 2pt gap between the Red and Blue lines allows the Yellow and Green lines to butt right up to them and show through the gap — neither of which is desirable. The quick and dirty approach to this problem might be to copy the Red and Blue lines, Paste in Back (Cmd/Ctrl-B), change the stroke colour to white and make these new strokes thicker. This does work, but it’s not the best approach in my eyes. It makes moving or editing those paths further down the track a two-step process (move the coloured route lines, then move the white lines that were underneath them), or a very fiddly single step: selecting objects behind other ones can be a real pain.
So I like to take advantage of a little-used feature of Adobe Illustrator — the fact that one path can have multiple strokes applied to it.
In STEP ONE, I’ve selected the Blue Line and made the Appearance palette visible (Window menu > Appearance or Shift-F6). To add a second stroke to the existing Blue one, simply click and drag that stroke down to the “Duplicate Selected Item” icon at he bottom of the palette as indicated. You can also just click on the stroke, then click on the icon, but I find it more satisfying to drag for some reason. If you really want, you can use the little flyout menu at the top right of the palette and choose “Add New Stroke” or “Duplicate Item” while you have the stroke selected in the main palette.
Bingo! The path now has two strokes, both of which are identical. Fortunately, the palette gives you everything you need to change the new stroke, as shown in STEP TWO. Use the little colour selector to change the second stroke in the palette (which is the stroke that’s behind the other one: the palette displays the stacking order of the path’s elements) to white, then change its stroke width.
The maximum amount you can increase the stroke by is twice the gap between your route lines — in this case, that’s four points (twice two), for a maximum width of 12 points. Any more than this, and the white stroke would start overlapping the Red line next to it. Normally, this amount is exactly what we’re after, so it’s not really a concern.
STEP THREE simply shows the result of performing the same steps on the Red line. Done! The advantage of this technique is that both strokes — being on the same path — can be moved or edited at the same time: there’s no need to fiddle around with two separate paths, one on top of the other.
And if you’re really smart, you’ll make Graphic Styles of these double-stroked lines, so that you can apply them again in the future with just one click.