Photo: DC Metro Map Made of M&M’s

Delicious! But where’s the Silver Line?

Source: Joey Butler/Flickr

Submission – Official Map: Bucharest Metro

Submitted by ssjmaz, who says:

M4 is under construction, M5 and M6 are future plans.

I’m planing on making a map of my own that is fully diagrammatic, will submit it when it’s ready.

——

Transit Maps says:

I look forward to seeing ssjmaz’s map, because it will almost certainly be better than this tired old thing. In this modern day and age, it absolutely baffles me that transit agencies put tiny, poorly-rendered JPGs, GIFs and PNGs of their system maps online. This one measures just 785px by 683px, and is quite difficult to read – both because of the small font size and the awful rendering of the type. PDF is nearly universal now and allows users to easily zoom in as close as they need to read the map. At least this is better than an embedded Flash map, I guess…

The map itself is pretty dire, with route lines wobbling around all over the place. The future M4, M5 and M6 lines have just been drawn in to fit around the existing map, which leads to strangely angled lines and awkward shapes almost everywhere.

Accessibility and main line interchange icons for the stations also seem to have been put wherever they can fit, while the grey and white zone background is really quite distracting. It’s also a little misleading, as it just shows districts around the city – not fare zones as one might reasonably expect on a transit map.

Some of the labels seem to have little relationship with their station marker, especially on the purple M6 line. At least most of the labels are set horizontally, although this makes the one outlier – Expoziţiei station – stand out like a sore thumb. Sub-par typography and a couple of really dull legends round out a pretty sad effort.

Our rating: An absolute minimum of effort expended here. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Source: Official Metrorex website

Submission – Is there an awful typographical error in the New York Subway Map?

Submitted by Nelson Ricardo, who says:

Big typographical oopsie in the latest release of the NYC subway map [September 2014, to coincide with the reopening of the Montague Street Tunnel – Cam]. Station names written horizontally are markedly darker than those written at an angle.

——

Transit Maps says:

I was all ready to agree with Nelson – I opened the PDF up in my browser and the angled type did look terrible – until I did a little more research and opened up the PDF a few different ways (browser plug-ins vs. Acrobat vs. Preview). In short, not all PDF engines are created equal, and some of them render objects or type in a sub-optimal way.

Opening the PDF in Chrome using the PDF plug-in resulted in “bad” angled text, as did using Preview (which uses Apple’s own PDF engine, not Adobe’s). Opening the PDF in Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Pro on both a Mac and a PC resulted in much better rendering for the angled text, as shown above. Strangely, Safari (Apple’s own browser) uses an Adobe PDF plug-in, so the type renders well there!

For final proof, I managed to unlock the secured MTA map PDF and open it in Illustrator: all the type labels in the above image are 6.92pt Helvetica Bold, regardless of what angle they’re set at.

However, differing amounts of horizontal and vertical scaling have then been applied to the text labels (extremely poor typography!), which is probably what is causing the different PDF engines to render the type so differently.

Source: MTA website (PDF)

Historical Map: Montreal Metro Map, July 1979

From the days before the current colour-coding of the lines and the now-iconic black background. Here, we have dark blue (or black: it’s hard to tell from this picture) instead of green for Line 1, and red instead of orange for Line 2. Line 4 retains its yellow color, and the three colours combined also form part of the Metro’s branding at the base of the map.

The map itself is fairly blocky and primitive, and the stairstepping effect on Line 1 in the eastern portion of the map creates some problems with label placement. The shoreline is strangely detailed in comparison with the rest of the map. 

The enormous “no smoking” icon is much larger than the agency logo, and apparently, way too many people interfere with the doors.

Our rating: An interesting look at the early days of Montreal’s map, although it’s not very memorable in itself. Two stars.

2 Stars

Source: transit103/Flickr

Photo: Tattoo based on H.C. Beck’s First Paris Métro Diagram
The inspiration for this tattoo is really quite obvious when you know what you’re looking for. This is H.C. Beck’s first unsolicited attempt at a Paris Metro diagram from around 1939, and has been reproduced quite faithfully (although without the station names). 
Source: zachhaschanged/Instagram

Photo: Tattoo based on H.C. Beck’s First Paris Métro Diagram

The inspiration for this tattoo is really quite obvious when you know what you’re looking for. This is H.C. Beck’s first unsolicited attempt at a Paris Metro diagram from around 1939, and has been reproduced quite faithfully (although without the station names). 

Source: zachhaschanged/Instagram

Submission - Historical Map: Chicago CTA Rapid Transit Map, 1983

Submitted by our resident repository of Chicago transit map knowledge, Dennis McClendon, who says:

This map of Chicago’s rapid transit network originated in the 1970s (this one is from June 1983), and this style was used until routes received color names in 1993. Happily, by that time digital printing in fiberglass-embedded signs made full-color maps easier to place in graffiti-prone environments.

These maps were silk-screened onto [blue] color blanks, and every color of ink added cost. So the CTA’s six lines are represented by using only two colors. Simple black is used for three “extension” lines that never overlap. A simple white line is used for the north-south line those connect with. For the two other through routes: black with white casing and white with black casing.

The side ticks for stations work fine, but a box for the places where transfers are possible is not altogether intuitive.  The CTA of that era employed skip-stop spacing, so alternate trains stopped at A or B stations only. Another graphic decision that might have deserved more thought:  the names of various suburbs—only a few of which can be reached by rapid transit—floating in their vague geographic positions, but no indication of Chicago city limits or Lake Michigan.

——

Transit Maps says:

I have to say that I actually really like the forced graphic simplicity of this map. There’s only two colours to work with, so every element has to be very carefully considered and balanced against others for the map to work at all. That it manages to keep the route lines recognisable and separated in the downtown Loop area without the use of an inset map is quite an achievement.

The famous “A-B” stopping patterns are shown pretty deftly as well, being mostly placed on the opposite side of the route line from the station name. The few stations where this doesn’t happen (due to crowding or space limitations) stand out like a sore thumb – Jarvis on the North-South line, and many of the stations on the Ravenswood line. There are also two stations with their labels set at an angle: Merchandise Mart is almost completely unavoidable, but Harvard on the Englewood Line could easily have been fitted in horizontally.

I think the “boxed” interchanges work well enough, having seen similar devices on quite a few maps (the Paris Metro included) now. I also like the extra detail included on the map: station closures on weekends and nights, direction of travel around the Loop, inbound boarding only on the last three stations on the Jackson Park North-South Line, and more.

I would agree with Dennis on the locality names, that just seem to float in space. The biggest offender is “Evergreen Park”, right at the very bottom of the map, below the legend!

As for depicting Lake Michigan, that seems like a good idea, but I struggle to think of a way of doing it without upsetting the delicate balance of the map. You can’t really use a white line, as that could be confused with all the white route lines, and you can’t have a large white area as that would be visually way too heavy. In the end, the lake isn’t that important for such a graphically stylised map (it really just delineates the eastern side of the map), so I’m not too upset by its absence.

Our rating: A fine historical example of how to use a limited colour palette effectively. Minimalist but still effective. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

  1. Camera: Olympus C8080WZ
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/10th
  4. Focal Length: 16mm

Crowd-Sourced Colours: Vienna turns to the people to decide what colour the new U5 line should be

Submitted by Joshua Davidowitz, who says:

Love your blog and always look forward to the next posting! Anyways, I read that in Vienna, the Wiener Linien are doing a vote of whether the new U5 metro line should be in turquoise or pink.

The two options are shown here – turquoise and pink (PDF links), which are also linked to on the above voting page.

What do you think?

As for me, I would go for turquoise over pink. The pink I find most confusing where it terminates at Karlsplatz and there is the transfer to the U1. If it was somewhere else on the line network it might work, but here it seems to blend in to the red of the U1. If they wanted pink as a line color, I might switch it to the U6 (brown).

——

Transit Maps says:

Now this is the kind of crowd-sourcing that I like: allowing the people of Vienna to have a say and feel involved in the process of the building of a new U-Bahn line. That said, each colour has its pros and cons for me. As Joshua says, the pink could potentially cause some confusion at Karlsplatz where it meets the Red U1, but pink has much better visual contrast where the U5 runs alongside the green U4.

Interestingly, both colours have very similar values when previewed in Photoshop using colour-blindness proofing settings, so there’s not much of a difference either way there.

In the end, I’d probably opt for turquoise, simply because it helps keep a balance between warm and cool colours on the map.

What do you think (answers enabled)?

1914 Hoch und Untergrundbahn Map, Sophie-Charlotte-Platz, Berlin

One of 26 panels on the walls of the platforms of this U-Bahn station that show the history of the subway before the First World War.

Source: bentchristensen14/Flickr

The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map
Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.
The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough –  so it was dropped from future versions.
Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.
Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.
However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.
Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.
In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.
On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.
Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.
Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.
Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.
Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded. The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map
Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.
The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough –  so it was dropped from future versions.
Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.
Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.
However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.
Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.
In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.
On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.
Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.
Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.
Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.
Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded. The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map
Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.
The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough –  so it was dropped from future versions.
Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.
Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.
However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.
Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.
In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.
On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.
Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.
Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.
Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.
Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded. The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map
Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.
The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough –  so it was dropped from future versions.
Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.
Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.
However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.
Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.
In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.
On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.
Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.
Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.
Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.
Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded.

The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map

Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.

The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough –  so it was dropped from future versions.

Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.

Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.

However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.

Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.

In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.

On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.

Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.

Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.

Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.

Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded.

Unofficial Map: Washington DC Metro Map with Silver Line, 2014 

Just because I don’t like leaving things unfinished, here’s a new version of my Washington DC Metro map with the final configuration of the Phase I Silver Line shown. For reference, here’s my previous version from 2011.

Like the official map, I’ve left the Phase II Silver Line stations unnamed, which is probably a wise choice, seeing all the variants that the Phase I stations went through! Flipping the Silver Line to the southern side of the Orange Line before East Falls Church was something else that the official map got right, and I’ve emulated that here as well. Only a few other minor tweaks: a couple of station name changes and a darkening of the Red Line colour to aid colour-blind users a little more. What do you think?

Edit – Morning, August 6, 2014: Thanks to Peter Dovak for a couple of tweaks: NoMa–Gallaudet U is now named correctly, and Phase II of the Silver Line’s completion date has been pushed out (unsurprisingly) to 2018. I’ve swapped in a new image above, and I’ve updated the version over on Flickr.

Evening, August 6, 2014: Further edits based on feedback today, especially from the comments left on this Greater Greater Washington post about the map. Changes include the addition of parkland along the Anacostia River as shown on the official map, lengthened “ticks” for stations so that they’re not so “nubby”, route letters in circles instead of squares so that they can’t be confused with the parking icon, proper designation of Wiehle-Reston East as the current western terminus of the Silver Line, and a few minor fixes and clean ups here and there.

Source: Cameron Booth/Flickr