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
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!
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”
Video: Making of a London Underground String Map
Feeling creative? Why not make a string art replica of your favourite subway system as shown in this awesome video? The pro tip is definitely the taping down of the actual map before putting in the nails for guaranteed fidelity to the real thing.
(Source: fsm vpggru/Vimeo)
Unofficial Map: Circular Tube Map by Maxwell Roberts
Apparently, circular Tube Maps are like London buses — none come forever, then two arrive at the same time.
This one is by Maxwell Roberts, an expert on the London Underground map if there ever was one. He’s personally redrawn multiple, multiple versions of the map in just about every possible configuration, just to see what works and what doesn’t. Many are featured in his excellent book, Underground Maps Unravelled, which I promise I’ll review properly one day.
Wisely, Roberts has confined his map to the traditional view of Greater London itself, with trains headed to distant places given an arrow pointer towards that destination.
Interestingly, most of his route lines radiate out from a central point, but some run parallel to other routes instead. This makes the design less rigid to a design ideal, but also upsets the visual flow of the diagram in a couple of places — I find the parallel Bakerloo and Metropolitan Lines in the northwest part of the map quite jarring.
Roberts’ interchange stations are much tighter than Fisher’s, looking far more like “traditional” Tube Map markers, but some are still very convoluted in making their connections between lines, such as at Farringdon/Barbican.
The London Underground logo "hidden" in the Circle Line is a bit of a gimmicky design affectation, although it actually works surprisingly well in the context of the diagram.
Overall, I think this version is more successful than Jonny Fisher’s, although I still don’t really see it as a viable alternative to the current official map. Neither does Mr. Roberts, who says, “Overall though, I don’t think I will be sending this one to TfL for comments. No great advances in usability here, but it was fun to make it.” Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Going Underground blog — click through for more detailed analysis from Maxwell Roberts himself)
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.
Vintage “Punch” Magazine Tube Map Cartoon
Lovely little Edwardian piece of whimsy to welcome the weekend.
(Source: Annie Mole/Flickr)
London Underground Map Tin in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”
It’s not very often I get to combine two of my absolute favourite things in one post: Doctor Who and transit maps! Without giving too much away (spoilers, sweetie!), the tin is presented in-story as being from 1967, and it looks like the BBC props department did a pretty decent job. The map shown on the tin is indeed Paul Garbutt’s 1964 map, which can be differentiated from the very similar 1970 map — even on-screen like this — because of the enlarged “U” and “D” in the “UNDERGROUND” roundel. By 1970, all letters in the logo were the same height.
There is actually a very clever point to the exact dating of the tin to 1967, but again… spoilers!
London’s iconic tube map is transformed into a pit-stop journey through classic styles of storytelling, with the individual tube lines turned into genres and sub genres of literature. The depths of the Northern Line are made over into the aptly named Horror Line. The Bakerloo Line coursing past Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street becomes, of course, the Crime & Mystery Line. And the pink trajectory of the Hammersmith & City is converted to the Romance Line. Each Storyline features a range of illustrations bringing to life both classics and mavericks from that theme, with a genre-defining work lurking at each journey’s end. Stations falling on intersecting Storylines get a sub-genre cross over. Many many days and weeks were spent researching and crafting this piece.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of the whole “let’s use a well known transit map and replace the station names with something else” thing, but I’m going to make an exception for this stunning poster by artist Anna Burles. This is beautifully done, and — for once — the interchanges between the genre/route lines have actually been thought about properly.