Submission - New Official Moscow Metro In-Car Strip Map
Submitted by long-time contributor, Dmitry Darsavilidze, here’s a brand new strip map for Metro Line 6. Designed by Art.Lebedev Studios, and based on their contest-winning system map, this carries on the good work of that design.
The strip map is simple and uncluttered, and has nice, large, easy-to-read type (a failing of many strip maps, which often have type to small to be easily read from any sort of distance). Information is presented consistently — interchange information is always given underneath the line, making it easy to locate each and every time.
My favourite part, however, is the subtle ring that denotes the Koltsevaya (Circle) Line. Given the Koltsevaya Line’s importance in the system (almost every other line interchanges with it at least once) and the way that it represents the border between central Moscow and the outlying suburbs, using it as a visual device like this is very clever.
(Source: Dimitry’s Twitter)
Unofficial Map: Washington DC Metro Map by Peter Dovak
An interesting approach to an alternative DC Metro map by Peter Dovak, who previously submitted this fantasy light rail map of Louisville, Kentucky.
There’s quite a bit to like here: I love the circular abstraction of the beltway highway around DC, which is then centred perfactly around the District diamond. Peter’s even made sure that the “square” formed by the three main interchange stations — Metro Center, Gallery Place and L’Enfant Plaza — sits at the exact centre of the diamond/circle, which is a nice design touch. He’s also worked hard to ensure that stations retain their correct position relative to all the boundaries (be they roadway or jurisdictional), which isn’t an easy thing to do.
Less successful, I feel, is the use of 30/60 degree angles for the route lines. While it gives more flexibility in layout, it just ends up looking a little too chaotic when overlaid on the 45-degree angles of the District boundary. Like it or not, this diamond is the shape that defines the District (and the map!): too many angles fights against that shape and dilutes its visual strength. The naturalistic approach taken to the rivers and parkland also creates even more angles that pull the eye different directions. The least successful result of this approach to route lines is the nasty acute angle formed on the southern branch of the Green Line as it turns to follow the District border through the Southern Avenue station.
I like the idea behind the station symbols acting as “ticks” pointing towards their labels, but I feel the white rounded rectangle needs to be brought in from the edge of the “non-tick” side just a little bit. The way it sits right on the edge of the route line at the moment breaks up the flow of the lines and could also cause some problems when printing the map.
Peter’s used the “subtitle” approach to station names that first appeared in a couple of the entries to the Greater Greater Washington map contest and has since migrated to the official map — a fantastic concept, and definitely the right approach. However, he’s also deleted parts of names in certain cases: U Street has lost its “African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo” subtitle completely. While this definitely saves space and helps labels fit, it’s a huge no-no. Lobby groups have worked hard to give stations those ridiculously long names, and they’re not going to like it if you remove them!
While on the subject of labels, Peter always spells out “Street” and “Road” in station names, but uses “Ave”, “Blvd” or “Sq”. I’d prefer either all spelled out or all abbreviated, not a combination of both.
In the end, this is an interesting alternate take on the DC Metro map. Some ideas work really well, others less so, but the thought processes behind them are valid and considered. For me, this map is a step up in both concept and execution from Peter’s Louisville map.
Official Map: New York/New Jersey Regional Transit Diagram — Full Review
After our first glimpse yesterday, now it’s time for a more in-depth look at this map. Thanks to everyone who sent me a link to the PDF (and there were more than a few of you)!
First things first: this MTA press release confirms that the map was designed by Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates. It’s definitely nice to see that the original creators of the diagram continue to shape its future, rather than being handed off to another design team.
That said, the original source that this map is based off — the 2008 revision of Vignelli’s classic 1970s diagram, as used on the MTA’s “Weekender” service update website — actually creates some problems for this version of the map.
Because the bright primary colours used for the Subway’s many route lines are so much a part of the map’s look (and indeed, the very fabric of the Subway itself, appearing on signage and trains across the entire system) it forces the NJ Transit, PATH and Amtrak routes shown to be rendered in muted pastel tones in order to differentiate them from the Subway. This results in a visual imbalance between the New York and New Jersey sides of the map: cool and muted on the left, bright and bold to the right. I also feel that the PATH lines up to 33rd Street become a little “lost” compared to the adjacent subway lines.
The other result of using pastel route lines is a loss of contrast between all those lines: they all register at a similar visual intensity, making them a little harder to differentiate. Because of the sheer number of lines that have to be shown, some of the NJ Transit routes have lost their “traditional” colour as used on their own official map (Nov. 2011, 1.5 stars). The Bergen County Line is no longer light blue, but the same yellow as the Main Line, while the Gladstone Line now uses the same green as the Morristown Line. Their original colours get redistributed to New Jersey’s light rail lines and Amtrak.
Some people have noticed that the map shows weekday off-peak services and commented that this is useless for the Super Bowl, which is held on a Sunday. However, the map has to be useful for the entire week of Super Bowl festivities, not just game day, so I feel it’s doing the best it can under the circumstances. If it really bothers you, @TheLIRRToday on Twitter has made a quick and dirty version of the map that shows weekend service patterns. As as has been pointed out to me, service on Super Bowl Weekend will be close to that of the weekday peak, so the difference is negligible anyway.
What bothers me is the fact that the football icon has an extra row of laces. NFL balls have eight rows of laces — the icon shows nine.
Our rating: Based on the classic Vignelli diagram. While it remains true to its minimalist roots, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessors. The need to integrate so many different routes and services while retaining familiar route colours for the Subway mean that the left half of the map isn’t as visually strong as the right. Still far better than many North American transit maps. It would also make a neat souvenir of a trip to the Super Bowl! Three stars.
(Source: NJ Transit “First Mass Transit Super Bowl" web page — also available on the MTA website)
Official Map: New York/New Jersey Regional Transit Diagram for 2014
Hot off the presses via New Jersey Transit’s Twitter account, here’s a first look at a new regional transit map that (finally!) combines New Jersey Transit rail, PATH rail and the New York Subway onto one map to “facilitate ease of travel between all three systems”.
It appears to be heavily based off the Massimo Vignelli “Weekender” diagram, although I don’t know if Vignelli himself (or his studio) was actually involved in the design of this diagram. I’ll try and track down a PDF of the actual map to do a full review.
Historical Map: Tyne and Wear Metro, 1981
A beautiful early map for this system, clearly showing how much of it was planned from the start. Apart from a few name changes (the proposed “Old Fold” station became Gateshead Stadium, for example), this is recognisably the same map that existed as far into the future as the year 2000, when the proposed extension to Sunderland made its appearance.
The outlined route lines to show proposed/future extensions work wonderfully well, making an excellent contrast to the existing coloured routes. The approach is even carried through to outlining the names of the proposed stations — a lovely and deft design touch.
Another interesting feature is how small and low in the visual hierarchy the ferry across the River Tyne is: in later maps, the ferry symbol has become very large and overpowering.
Our rating: The original and the best. Simple, stylish, uncluttered design that sets out a clear vision for the future. Four stars.
Fantasy Map: Airbus A380 Network as a Subway Map
Here’s a map that’s doing the social media rounds today — a subway map-style representation of Airbus A380 routes.
All I can say is: meh.
Remember when air travel was stylish and cool? Personally, I love airline route maps, with their arc-like routes branching out all across the globe: it helps keep a sense of wonder about the vast distances we travel, high above the earth.
Instead, here we are: on the subway. Under the city, running through dark, noisy tunnels, packed in like sardines (actually, that last part holds true for air travel as well these days!). It’s a miserable metaphor for what’s meant to be the future of air travel, and it doesn’t help that the map is terribly executed as well. The continents are reduced to shapeless grey blobs (South America isn’t even shown at all!), while, bizarrely, a river runs through the oceans. I guess it’s meant to make it look more “transit mappy”, but it’s just asinine.
And then there’s the completely inconsistent application of station symbols — circles, rectangles and dots just plonked down anywhere. Why does Guangzhou have an interchange symbol when it doesn’t actually interchange with anything?
Our rating: A poor execution of an awful concept. You can’t tell me this wouldn’t look a hundred times more magnificent and exciting if it was a traditional air route map. Half a star.
(Source: Airbus’ Facebook page)
Unofficial Future Map: Singapore MRT/LRT by Bernie Ng
Submitted by Bernie, who says:
I saw your recent post regarding future Singapore MRT/LRT maps and thought I’d throw mine into the ring. The Singapore MRT has long been one of my fave metro systems around the world. I like the concept of destination numbers and station numbers - I believe it is one of the first, if not the first, to use this concept (do let me know if that’s not quite right). My approach for this map is to incorporate the station number into the station marker itself to avoid some of the clutter associated placing the station name AND the number alongside the station marker. Also, I really wanted the Circle Line to be a circle, so I have adopted a few distortions to make that happen. Finally, I tried to incorporate geography of Singapore in a stylistic manner to further reinforce the circle motif. I know this does not quite meet the professional standards I often see on this blog (this is drawn using Microsoft Visio), but let me know what you think all the same!
Transit Maps says:
I don’t know, Bernie — this looks pretty darn nice from what I can see!
The temptation to make any line called the “Circle Line” live up to its name is almost always too hard to resist! Sometimes the result can be a little forced or contrived, but I think you’ve done a nice job here — for the most part, the stations are spaced out pretty nicely. I particularly like the way you’ve managed to keep the purple North East Line perfectly straight while heading entirely in the direction its name implies.
Integrating the station code into the station marker is a good idea that removes clutter — reader Xavier Fung pointed out that the new official map does this as well — and the insets for the LRT systems also work well in simplifying the main map as well as providing greater detail for these services than the official map can. I also really like the stylish shell-like shape that the island of Singapore takes on: stylised but recognisable!
My few quibbles — the graduated grey background could be seen as representing fare zones. As Singapore uses a distance-based fare system, not a zonal one, this could cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. I also find the grey a little drab and overpowering — it seems to make the other colours used on the map a little duller as well.
Finally: Visio? Not my tool of choice, and you’re probably pushing it to the absolute limit of its capabilities, but this does look really, really good.
Our rating: Strong visual concept, nicely executed, a couple of well-thought out innovations. Colours could be brighter and more evocative of Singapore. Three-and-a-half stars.
P.S. See another excellent unofficial redesign of the Singapore MRT map here.
Unofficial Map: Singapore MRT by Andrew Smithers
As promised, here’s an unofficial map of Singapore’s rail transit that takes the future extensions and integrates them far more effectively and attractively than the official future map. This map was created by Andrew Smithers, who runs the quite excellent Project Mapping website — well worth losing a few hours to all the maps he has over there!
Immediately, you can see how design is used to simplify and clarify the routes — the Thomson Line becomes a north-south axis for the map, while the new Downtown Line now describes a perfect diamond-shaped loop. This motif is echoed beautifully by the larger loop of the yellow Circle Line — which visually lives up to its name far more here than on the official map — and even by little double-crossover between the Downtown and North East lines at the bottom centre of the map. Repetition of design themes in a transit map is a lovely thing, and it really helps to hold a map together thematically.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect, however. The station codes — used to help non-English speakers buy tickets and navigate the system — are just as problematic here as they are on the official map. Andrew has opted to place them on the opposite side of the route line to the station name; while it works well in the less-crowded parts of the map, it can get a little messy in places, especially where the Downtown Line runs close to the North East and Circle Lines in the densest part of the map (just to the right of centre).
Our rating: A lovely example of how repeated design elements can thematically tie a map together. Four stars.
(Source: Via email discussion with Andrew)
Future Map: Singapore MRT with Future Extensions
I reviewed the official Singapore MRT map back in January 2012, and was generally in favour of it (giving it four stars). So it’s interesting to look at this version of the map, which includes extensions that are currently under construction or in the final stages of planning. There are two entirely new lines — the blue Downtown Line and the brown Thomson Line, as well as an eastern extension to the green East-West Line. There’s also a new light rail loop being added to the far north-eastern sector of the city.
The problem with this map is that the new lines have simply been overlaid on top of the existing older version, and they then have to take some very strange and visually unattractive routes to “join the dots” where they interchange with existing stations. The dashed “under construction” lines also align poorly with station ticks, leaving some of them floating in space between dashes. Finally, the downtown area is also becoming a little tangled and cramped because of all the new additions.
This map still does a very good job, and is still a very competently executed piece. However, some more thought about how to restructure it so that the new lines could be better integrated would definitely have been welcome.
As it happens, I have an unofficial map that definitely does consider how to incorporate the new lines in a more thoughtful manner… but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see it!
Our rating: The original map provides a solid base, but the new additions really aren’t integrated with much thought. A downgrade to three stars.
(Source: Singapore Land Transport Authority website)
Unofficial Map: Beijing Subway by Cameron Hughes
Submitted by slutzilla, who says:
Hi Cameron, fellow Cameron here! I recently redesigned the Beijing Subway map for an Information Design class (as well as doing a little bit of rebranding and signage/wayfinding design). It’s still a work in progress so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! You can view the entire project as well as a full-size PDF here.
Transit Maps says:
Looks like an interesting (and somewhat daunting) project! I think you’ve hit the right notes with the logo — the colours are very well chosen and the type is suitably bouncy and friendly. I do wonder whether the Beijing subway would ever actually adopt a logo using an English acronym made out of English characters, but I’ll let that slide because I like it. I especially like the cropped application of it on the subway fare card… nice!
But on to the map.
Other Cameron said that she made it for an Information Design class, so let’s approach it from that point of view. For me, while the map looks very pleasant at first glance, there’s quite a few serious problems that hinder its usefulness as a piece of informational design.
First — and an absolute deal-breaker in my eyes — is that the size of the type is way too small. The PDF of the map is set up at poster size: 36 inches wide by 45 inches deep. Yet the labels for the stations are set in 7-point type. That’s as small as the type on the sports results pages or those disclaimers at the bottom of car ads in a newspaper! It’s barely readable at a close distance, and absolutely invisible in a real world setting — at a station, or inside a moving, crowded subway car. By comparison, if the Washington DC map was at the same width as this poster, the station labels would be set at approximately 26 points, or over three-and-a-half times larger!
Another huge problem is the lack of identifiers on the map that link the route lines to the map’s legend. Each line should have its number or name denoted on the map so that people can cross-reference it to the legend. At the moment, you have to rely solely on colour to determine which line runs where, and that is Not A Good Thing. Even for non-colour-blind users, there’s a quite a few similar-looking colours on the map, as you’d expect with 17 operating lines and five future ones. Once you introduce colour-blindness into the equation, the map is basically useless. Cameron already has line number icons created as part of her wayfinding system, so it shouldn’t be a problem to add them to the map.
SIDE NOTE: Did you know you can simulate colour-blindness in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and above? Simply choose: View menu > Proof Setup > Color Blindness - Protanopia-type or Color Blindness - Deuteranopia-type. I definitely recommend this as a testing step in any information design work!
The map prominently features background concentric rings, but doesn’t tell you what they are. Reading Cameron’s summary of the project, I found out that they’re meant to represent Beijing’s system of ring roads. However, this type of shading is almost always used on transit maps to represent fare zones, so there’s huge potential for confusion here (For the record, Beijing has a flat fare of 2¥ across the entire subway, except for the Airport Express, which costs 25¥). The rings also interfere with the underlying checkerboard pattern for the map’s grid, making it harder to use.
Speaking of the Airport Express, it would be a good idea to indicate that the train goes to Terminal 3 first, then Terminal 2, then back to Beijing.
A few other notes not related to the informational aspect of the map:
I’d prefer to see the three boxes at the bottom of the map combined into one larger one, just for a cleaner, more unified look.
Because of the concentric rings, the map is crying out to be centred horizontally on the page. At the moment, it’s too far to the left, but only because the subway logo at the top right is so large.
I also feel the icons need a little bit more work to unify them. At the moment, most of them are flat, front-on representations, but the “Temple of Heaven” and the “789 Space” icons have a three-dimensional feel to them that separates them from the rest, while the “Beijing Zoo” icon looks uncomfortably like Cameron has just flipped the World Wildlife Fund logo horizontally. While the actual Beijing Zoo logo also features a similar-looking panda, this icon needs some of its own unique character to stand apart from either of these logos.
Finally, I feel like the “circle/rings” motif could be pushed a little further. The further out from the middle of the map we get, the less that the route lines adhere to this design idea. The north-east and south-west sections of the purple Line 14 stand out the most: they follow a curve, but it’s not related to the main set of rings.
At the moment, this map seems to me to be a bit of style over substance. It looks clean, fresh and modern, but has some serious usability issues when you look at it from a information design viewpoint.