Historical Map: “Opening Day” Washington, DC Metro Map, 1976
Directly related to yesterday’s post, here’s an even older map of the Washington, DC Metro — this one is from an informational pamphlet released for the March 29, 1976 opening of the first part of the system, and is clearly dated at he bottom right.
Inexplicably, the Red Line is a dark burgundy colour, while the Orange Line is shown as red, even though they’re both clearly labelled correctly in the legend. How a printing error of this magnitude occurred is beyond me: with four-colour printing, you’d have to add about 40 percent more magenta ink to turn orange into red, and turning red into burgundy requires the addition of a lot of black ink where absolutely none should exist. Totally bizarre!
In another difference from yesterday’s map, you can see that neither Dupont Circle or Gallery Place are open for business yet.
Finally, long time correspondent Matt Johnson — who knows more about the Washington Metro than I ever will — has sent in some interesting information regarding some of the alignments shown on these old maps. I noted yesterday that these old maps don’t have the distinctive kink in the Yellow/Green line near U Street — Matt tells me that’s because at this time there wasn’t planned to be one.
As shown, the plan was for the Green and Yellow Lines to continue directly north from 7th Street into Georgia Avenue (the northern extension of 7th Street) to Kansas Avenue and then on to the current alignment at Fort Totten. Later changes pushed the alignment across to 14th Street and then along New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten. And thus, a distinctive visual feature of the modern map was born (and here was I thinking that they put it in to accommodate the ridiculous length of U Street station’s current name!)
Matt also notes that the southern end of the Green Line was changed over time to something of a “hybrid” alignment. Originally, he says, the Green Line was to go to Rosecroft via Congress Heights. By the 1970s, that had changed, and the new plan was to send the line to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue, as shown on this map.
However, a lawsuit was brought that WMATA had not held public hearings in the DC area, and as a result a hybrid alignment was chosen. In DC, the line went via Congress Heights (as if it was going to Rosecroft). In Prince George’s the line headed for Branch Avenue. At the District Line, there’s a kink to connect the two different alignments.
Strangely, that kink only appeared on the official map with the recent Rush+ revision, even though it’s always physically been there!
(Source: later in the same Subchat.com thread from yesterday)
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1977
This is a Metro map from March, 1977 — about a year after the system first started carrying passengers. At first glance, it looks very similar to today’s modern map… but then you realise that the only section that’s actually in service is the Red Line between Dupont Circle and Rhode Island Avenue, denoted by black outlines around the station circles, rather than the plain white circles used for future stations.
The uncanny resemblance to today’s map comes about because the whole system shown here — up to and including the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue in 2001 — was planned for right from the start of the project. If you look closely, there are actually quite a few differences: the Blue and Yellow Lines south of Pentagon are reversed from today’s configuration, and a number of station names have changed from these initial plans. Bigger visual differences include the lack of the kink in the Yellow/Green line around Columbia Heights and a much greater sense of visual clarity: short station names (note that it’s only “U Street” here!) and no secondary information like cross streets, hospitals or timetable/routing callout boxes give the map room to breathe. While not quite the mimimalist classic that Massimo Vignelli’s New York Subway map is, this version of the map is definitely far more deserving of the “iconic” tag than its modern descendants.
Our rating: An unadulterated look at the far superior original concept. Four stars.
(Source: Subchat.com thread about the map: the thread originally dates the map to March 27, 1976, but later revises it to March 17, 1977 because of the stations that are shown as being open — Dupont Circle and Gallery Place stations opened after the rest of the Phase I Red Line stations)
Metro Map, Pyongyang, North Korea
An interactive metro map from North Korea’s secretive capital. The green buttons across the bottom of the map represent all the stations: press one and the path from your current station to your destination lights up. With just a handful of stations on two lines (and only one interchange), I hardly think many people are going to be overwhelmed by the system’s complexity.
Wikipedia’s article on the Pyongyang Metro is actually a very interesting read: the stations are mostly named thematically (Comrade, Enlightenment, Three Rejuvenations, etc.), while accounts vary as to exactly how many stations foreign visitors to the city can visit — whatever the final number, it seems that they’re mostly limited to the newer, more impressive stations.
Brussels Metro Line Map and Next Train Countdown
A companion piece to the official map (Dec. 2012, 3 stars) on the platform at Rogier station. The look of this map marries with the official map quite well, showing an admirable consistency in application.
Rogier station itself is clearly shown with a nice big arrow and stations before it on the lines are clearly indicated against greyed-out route lines. There’s also a nicely legible countdown for the next two trains, indicating their route number (2 or 6), final destination and estimated time in minutes to arrival. It even looks like the position of all the trains on the line headed in the same direction are shown on the strip map as bright red lights. Now you can see where that train you just missed has got to without you!
The only thing this map fails to show is the circular nature of the routes that the station serves. Routes 2 and 6 form Brussels’ “circle line”, and the two terminus stations for Route 2 — Simonis (Elisabeth) and Simonis (Leopold II) — are really just two different levels of the same Metro station.
(Source: Ian YVR/Flickr)
The Almost Official Map: Ilya Birman’s Moscow Metro Map
However, I haven’t seen as much attention being paid to the second-place winning map, designed by Ilya Birman. He also has a design process page for his map, and it’s just as fascinating as the Lebedev one.
He discusses the difficulty of having to label the map in Cyrillic and Latin scripts, as well as the problems posed by stations having multiple names, depending which line they are on.
The map also employs an unusual station-finding technique that relates all stations to the Circle Line, rather than the more usual grid look-up. It seems a little quirky at first, but it’s actually surprisingly intuitive after a while.
The page also addresses important issues like colour-blindness (the map holds up fairly well) and what to do when a station named Aeroport no longer has an airport anywhere near it.
Well worth a look, if only to see the sheer amount of thought and effort that goes into making a transit map of this quality. For me, there’s very little between this map and the Lebedev map, and both would have been very worthy of being the public face of this venerable Metro system.
Los Angeles Rail Maps
Great photo showing how the LA Metro maps are part of a larger, unified, wayfinding system. Consistency of typography and brand are key — note how the titles of each map are in the same location and typeface every time, as is the Metro logo: colour is the main differentiator of information.
Unofficial Map: “Barcelona Tourist Guide” Metro Map
As you should know, official transit maps are copyrighted materials. Commercial reproduction of the map by third parties normally requires permission and payment of a licence fee — often a hefty one.
A lot of people don’t want to pay that fee, so they design their own version of the map instead. This can result in maps that are eerily similar to the official one, nicely designed but different maps, or horrendous monstrosities. Guess which category this map falls into?
Have we been there? Yes. And with the official map (October 2011, 4.5 stars), the Metro is super easy to use.
What we like: At least the lines are the right colours.
What we don’t like: Sooooo ugly. Call-out boxes for every station waste space and look terrible. The worst example is Trinitat Nova station, which has two call-out boxes, one for Lines 3 and 11 and a separate one for Line 4, because the designer couldn’t work out how to have the three different line colours in the background of one call-out box.
Which way is north? Barcelona is actually oriented about halfway between the cardinal points, so giving some sort of directional indication on the Metro map is very important. The official map includes major roads, the coastline and a north pointer to help out: this map gives you nothing at all. What appears to be north here is actually north-east.
The integrated tram system is missing entirely, as there’s simply no room for it to fit. There’s actually a second map on the website for this system, where the main Metro map is tinted back without labels and the tram system is slapped on over the top.
Our rating: Hideous and confusing. I thought long and hard about giving this a zero, but surely there’s still something worse than this out there.
(Source: Barcelona Tourist Guide)
The Design Process Behind the New Moscow Metro Map
As you may have heard by now, the Art Lebedev Studio entry will become the new official Moscow Metro map at the end of February. It beat out the other two entries convincingly, garnering 52% of the popular vote.
Of particular interest to me, though, is the design process page for the map on their website: a fascinating look at the hard work and effort that goes into making a world-class transit map. Concepts are tried, refined, discarded and tried again to find the perfect solution. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is evaluated again and again. Note the beautiful underlying grid (shown above) and the guides used for accurately placing station labels perfectly every time (something that the Washington DC Metro map was completely incapable of in its redesign last year.) More than anything, this page shows that good design doesn’t just “happen”: it’s a process that evolves over time according to the needs of the client and the designer’s skills.
The best part of the page? The map halfway down the page where you can scrub through 95 — yes, ninety-five! — different iterations of the map to see how the map evolved over time.
See also this page on Lebedev’s website that details all the features of the final, finished map. Also fascinating!
Mexico City Metro Linea 1 Strip Map
If you’re going to use icons for each of your stations, as Mexico City does, then why not make them nice and big and simply arrange them in the correct order?
More from Wikipedia on the iconography of the Mexico City Metro:
Each station is identified by a minimalist logo related to the name of the station or the area around it. This is because, at the time of the first line’s opening, the illiteracy rate was extremely high, so people found it easier to guide themselves with a system based on colors and visual signs. The design of the icons and the typography are a creation of Lance Wyman, who also designed the logotype for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games at Mexico City. The logos are not assigned at random; rather, they are designated by considering the surrounding area, such as:
The logos’ background colors reflect those of the line the station serves. Stations serving two or more lines show the respective colors of each line in diagonal stripes, as in Salto del Agua.
(Source: Universe’s universe/Flickr)
Fully Playable Ms. Pacman Game Based on the Washington, DC Metro Map
This is what you get when you trawl the internet late at night…easily one of the strangest things I’ve come across on the Web lately. You can actually play this map as if it was a game of Ms. Pacman — note the bow in her hair and Cindy Crawford-like beauty spot, just like the original game. Instructions on how to play are here. (Hint: it’s much easier to use the R O Y G B keys to move between route lines than to try and navigate with the arrow keys.)
You can also check out the author’s time-scaled interactive map of the DC Metro while you’re there.
(Source: MV Jantzen website)