Question: What’s a good way to display one-way routes on a map?

(Question from an anon).

The only correct answer to this is is to use an arrow that points in the direction of travel. However, there’s plenty of different ways to integrate that arrow into your artwork, as the examples above show: next to your route lines, within your route lines, or even as an integral part of your route line. A lot of it depends on the aesthetic vision of the map, or how much space is available. If there are a lot of one-way routes, then it’s best to plan an approach right at the start of the design process, rather than shoe-horning something inappropriate in later.

As a corollary, there are also times where a route may be running bi-directionally, but certain stops only serve vehicles headed in one direction. Here, you’ll need an arrow that’s contained within (or obviously linked to) the station symbol to make your meaning clear. Remember to explain this in the legend as well!

Images (clockwise from top left): Paris Metro map | Freiburg im Breisgau transit map | Gmünd bus map | Magdeburg bus map | My own Portland rail map | Fort Collins bus map

QuestionHow do you use Adobe Illustrator to design these transit maps?! It looks pretty cool and I want to learn how to! Answer

It is cool! (At least, I think it is!)

I wrote a general article about making transit maps on my own design blog back in 2011, and I also offer a lot of tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over the years here on the blog. The rest is just trial and error, ha!

And the obligatory reminder to check out the FAQ for answers to this question and more!

Anonymous Asked
QuestionDo you know of transit maps for systems that include ferries that are particularly effective (or ineffective)? Answer

Check it out for yourself, and see what you think of these:

QuestionI am an undergraduate student in Connecticut who has dreamed of pursuing a career in the transportation industry since I was in elementary school. I am most interested in developing intelligent transport system software and I passionate about maps in general because they help us software developers understand the trends of urbanization, routes, and much more to aid our development. I was wondering how did you develop such a knowledge on transit maps? What is your education background? Answer

My education is purely graphic design-based, having completed an Associate Diploma of Visual Arts (Graphic Design) some twenty-odd years ago in Sydney, Australia.

As a designer, I’ve always had an interest in wayfinding and transit maps as a subset of graphic design, but my real love of it developed out of a trip to London in 1997, where I was first exposed to the Tube and its famous Diagram. I bought two books from the London Transport Museum – “Mr. Beck’s Diagram”, and the superb “Designed for London” (all about the remarkably forward-thinking and unified graphic design and branding he Underground has enjoyed over its 150 year history) – and haven’t looked back since.

My interest in transit maps has grown over the years, and I’ve applied my own thinking and design experience to creating my own maps, many of which can be found on my personal design blog. The Transit Maps blog actually began as a personal design exercise: analysing transit maps  from around the world so I could make better maps – finding out what worked and what didn’t, as well as placing maps into a proper historical perspective. It’s grown into something much bigger since then, but that what was started it.

Working as a senior graphic designer for a large multi-national engineering and design firm certainly helps my perspective as well. I’m working with the people who help create the transit systems that the maps represent: seeing the huge amount of planning, work and effort that goes into even something as apparently simple as a short extension of a light rail system is certainly eye-opening. 

QuestionYour San Antonio map is mislabeled and your choice of US 181 over roads like US 281, I-35, US 90 is odd.. Is it just a proof of concept?? The road that travels from NE to SW is I-35, not I-37. i-37 travels southeast from downtown. Answer

I presume you’re talking about this photo of my Highways of the USA project? The labels are fine: you’re just misinterpreting them.

I-37 and US 181 are labelled because they end in San Antonio. All the other roads you mention pass through on their way somewhere else — they only get a label at their beginning and end, not anywhere inbetween. US 90 is the dark green route, I-10 is yellow, I-35 is purple. I-37 is the dark grey line (note that it matches the colour of its label) that heads southeast, as you’d expect it to.

Submitted by Sascha, who says:

just came across your interesting website.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the transit map of the city of Leipzig, Germany.


Sascha, I actually reviewed Leipzig’s map quite while ago (January 2012, 4 stars), so this seems like a good time to remind readers (especially those new to the site) of the awesome power of tags in Tumblr posts, particularly if you’re trying to find a map from a particular place.

I try to be fairly meticulous with my tagging, including as much information as I can: city name, state/region, country, continent, mode of transit, transit agency name, designer’s name (if known), my star rating… etc. If you want to try and find something on the site, then the best thing to do is to type or copy this into your browser’s search bar:

and then type the tag you’re interested after the last slash. If the tag is two or more words, like New York, then you need to separate them with a hyphen instead of a space: new-york

I also have a handy “Search By Tags" page on the blog that has pre-made links to some of the more popular/useful tags. Search away! 

Anonymous Asked
QuestionI am looking to print a few maps of my own on a large format printer. I can't find any good resources online for what type of paper is best. What I am imagining is a type of paper I've seen typical state maps use before, like a satin/low gloss finish, lightweight and folds easily. I've read a lot of your tutorial articles, but none on the types paper that are preferable for printing. Answer

Paper weights can be pretty confusing, especially here in the U.S., where the same “weight” of stock is completely different depending on whether it’s bond, text, index or cover paper. I still only have a pretty rough grasp of how the U.S. system works, having moved here from Australia where all paper is sensibly measured in grams per square metre (gsm) — that is, how much a single one square metre sheet weighs. I can actually flick the edge of a sheet of paper with my thumb and have a pretty good idea of the paper weight in gsm.

My posters are printed on a 235gsm stock, which is fantastic for a quality poster print that is not going to be folded, and only rolled for a short time (to mail them to customers). However, that’s way too heavy for your purposes: you’d be better off with something around the 140gsm mark: in the U.S., that might equate to a 100# text stock, or a 55# cover.

If you’re getting your posters printed at a reprographics shop, ask their advice and get some samples!

For more info on the weird and wacky world of U.S. paper weights, this is a good resource.

Anonymous Asked
QuestionHi Cameron. Do you have any plans to update your 'Rail Transit of Portland' map with the new transit/pedestrian bridge and new MAX line down to Milwaukie? Are you waiting till the line opens? I love the map and would like to buy a print once it's updated. Thanks! Answer

That version of the map is basically done, as can be seen here on Flickr — the line down to Milwaukie is shown as “under construction”. I still need to revise the colours used for the streetcar lines to match the official ones as this map was made before they had finalised them.

Then, I will have to wait until the line is opened to see what the final route configuration of the Orange Line will be. I’ve chosen to show the line as a logical extension of the Yellow Line (as I personally believe that’s what it should be!), but it seems that TriMet wants it to be its own, separate route designation. I’ve heard differing reports of where the line will terminate/turn around/change into a Yellow Line train, so I’m just going to have to wait, I guess…

Anonymous Asked
QuestionWhat software do you use to make your maps? Answer

Check out the FAQ for the answer to this and more.

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!