rohdesr Asked
QuestionWhat do you thing of Sound Transit's station icons? I find them ineffective and embarrassing. And, they what opinions for new icons for new stations! You can see the survey yourself on the surveygizmo website at /s3/1584076/Pictogram-Questionnaire. Answer

I talked about Sound Transit’s station icons in this review of the Link map that’s found in ST’s timetable book back in December 2012. Like you, I’m not particularly impressed by them. I think they’re overly detailed and they reproduce terribly at small sizes. They’re even kind of hard to make out on the strip maps on trains — becoming vague, blobby shapes — which is really not a good thing for an icon.

It’s kind of funny that in the questionnaire you reference above, Sound Transit uses Lance Wyman’s gorgeous Mexico City Metro icons as a point of reference, because they’re the absolute opposite of the Seattle icons — bold and simple, with each one being immediately visually distinctive from another. 

However, icons are here to stay, as they’re mandated by Washington state law. From RCW 81.112.190 - Requirements for Signage:

The signage [for any light-rail system in Washington state] must also use distinguishing symbols or pictograms developed by the authority as a means to identify stations and may identify points of interest along the corridor for persons who use languages that are not Roman-alphabet based.

Seeing as Seattle is stuck with icons, you might as well try and get the best ones you can. If you like in Seattle and have an opinion, then you should take the survey — here’s a proper link to it.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionI'm visiting Milan, flying in to Malpensa Airport and will be staying at the Lancaster Hotel, Via Abbondio Sangiorgio, and want to know if there's a convenient way to get there (or thereabouts) by train from the airport? Answer

Really? Ten seconds on the Malpensa Airport website gave me the answer to this.

There are over 40 trains a day from the airport to Milano Cadorna station, which is just under a mile from your hotel (including a pleasant stroll through the delightful Parco Sempione if you like). Some trains are direct, others stop at intermediate stations. Make sure you’re going to Cadorna, not Centrale, which is much further away from your part of town.

Just a reminder that I’m really not your best source of information for making travel plans — there are better places on the Internet to get that sort of thing! Airports are normally pretty good at letting you know how to get to/from them.

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).

Here’s a question from Didier that’s a little outside the normal boundaries of this blog, but I think I’ve got a couple of ideas on the subject…

Hi Cam, What is the best way to hang a map on a wall? I don’t really want to frame it, but I don’t think pins would be/look great. How do you hang maps on your walls? Thanks and your work is amazing.


Transit Maps says:

Thanks for the kind words, Didier! Framing a map always looks awesome, but it can get expensive quickly, especially if you’re including a matte or framing a large piece. You’re also right that pins aren’t the nicest way to attach a map to a wall: they put holes in the paper and look pretty ugly, too. 

If you’re able to use screws in your walls (if you’re renting, you may or may not be able to do this, depending on your lease/landlord), then I highly recommend that you head to IKEA and pick up a pack of Digitnet curtain wire. It’s basically 16 feet (5 metres) of strong wire that you can cut to the required length and then secure to your wall with the supplied fittings. It’s meant to hold up lightweight curtains, so it’s definitely more than strong enough to support a few posters. Then, just get some nice clips that you can hang over the wire to hang your maps from. The image above shows this setup in my house: it works perfectly, looks great, and only takes about 15 minutes to set up.

(For those who are wondering, the poster is one of Andrew “Vanshnookenraggen” Lynch’s fantastic New York Subway Line maps.)

If you can’t use screws, then you’ll need to find a way to secure the poster to the wall that doesn’t show from the front: this could be adhesive strips, Blu-Tack, double-sided tape, or even the old-fashioned loop of packing tape. If you do use one of these, then I strongly advise that you first apply a strip of packing tape to each corner of the back of your poster first. This will both strengthen the poster and protect it from any residue left behind by the adhesion method.

Any other map-mounting ideas?

  1. Camera: iPhone 5
  2. Aperture: f/2.4
  3. Exposure: 1/15th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm
Anonymous Asked
QuestionHow do I submit an image which does not have a URL - it's on my hard drive? Answer


Yeah, it’s not immediately obvious what you need to do to submit an image. The trick is to use the dropdown menu at the top left of the Submit panel to change between the three accepted types of submission — text, photo and link. Then you’ll get an area where you can add an image, as seen in the image here.

So what are you all waiting for? Submit something!

Anonymous Asked
QuestionIs a design faux pas to mix 30/60 degree angles with 45 degree angles? Any examples where this has worked for a particular design? Answer

Whoah, that’s weird. I just this very second posted an example of what you’re talking about.

It’s not a faux pas as such, but you really have to think about why you’re choosing to use so many angles in your design. If the complexity of the London Underground can be shown with just eight directions, why do you need sixteen? Remember that the aim of a diagrammatic transit map is to limit the number of directional changes that a route takes so that it’s easier to follow. More options for directions may seem like a good idea, but you often just end up adding extra, unnecessary detail.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionHow do I get by Metro from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris BERCY Railway Station ? Answer

Now, I don’t want answering this sort of question to become a habit — I’m more interested in looking at maps than being some sort of public transportation help desk — but I’ll make an exception just this once.

The short answer is that you can’t, as the Metro itself doesn’t go to CDG. However, a quick glance at the official Paris Metro/RER map tells you that you can catch a train on the RER “B” line from CDG (shown at the very top right hand corner of the map) to the Chatelet-Les Halles station, where you can transfer to Metro Line 14 (via a short walk through tunnels to the connected Chatelet Metro station) towards Olympiades. Bercy is just two stops down the line!

Here’s a question from an anonymous follower, who asks:

"Is it good or bad to depict lines under construction on subway maps?"

In my opinion, if the line is actually under construction, then it’s definitely a good thing to show it. It gets users acquainted with the new line before it opens and generates interest. How you show it is up to you - dashed lines are the usual way, although advances in printing mean that transparent or translucent lines are also being used.

If a line is currently being planned, then I don’t think it should be shown on the map - things could change during the planning process and this could confuse people.

However, a good map designer will always work at future-proofing his map, so that new lines can be added in the future without having to reconfigure what already exists. This is one of the reasons why the Washington, DC Metro map has lasted so long - it was planned from the beginning to show the current track layout. It was only once the Dulles extension began construction that the map needed a review, as that extension was not part of the original plan.

From my own experience, when I did my own redesign of the Boston “T” map earlier this year, I purposefully aligned the northern end of the Green Line at Lechmere with the Lowell commuter rail line to take into account the planned Green Line extension, which shares the same right of way as the Lowell line (see picture above). The current official map doesn’t do this and will need to be redrawn when (and if) the Green Line extension opens.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionDo you first outline an area (city, region, country) and then fit your routes in? or vice versa? Answer

Good question! I generally know what the finished size of the piece should be and work within those restrictions. For example, my Interstate as Subway Map posters are 36 inches wide x 24 inches deep, so that’s how big I set up my artboard in Adobe Illustrator. Some tweaking, tightening and reworking is often required to make everything fit just so!

Ultimately, it’s no use making a nice-looking map if it doesn’t fit into the space it needs to go in. Real transit maps have very particular requirements (Boston’s maps have to fit into a square, for example, because that’s the space allowed at all the stations), so you’d better get used to them!

EDIT: Just realised my answer was slightly tangential to the question. To answer it more directly: I block the routes in first to make sure they have good flow and rhythm. If I need to add city/country boundaries or shoreline, I add them after. The routes are the most important part of the map in my eyes. There can be a bit of give and take between the two parts as the design progresses, but I’ll always try to give the routes priority.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionCan you please make video tutorials on transit map making? Atleast the basic ones! Answer

But if I tell you all my secrets, then I won’t have any left! :-)

While it’s unlikely that I will make video tutorials (not enough time in the day to add that to the mix!), I have already written a short guide to designing transit maps over on my personal blog. Check it out!

I have also made a “time lapse” video of one of my projects which I’ll try to dig up today - it’s kind of fascinating to see how the project grew so organically…