Fantasy Map: 2014 Tour de France as a London Tube Map by Joe McNamara
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got nothing against the “… as a subway/tube map” design trope. Having created more than a few of this type of map myself, I’d be a pretty sad hypocrite if I said otherwise.
However, it does bug me when a map in this style fails to live up to the fundamental underlying design principles of the piece that inspired it, and that’s what’s happened here. Obviously drawing inspiration from H.C. Beck's famous Tube Diagram (the oversized LU roundel really driving the point home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), this map was created to commemorate the first few stages of this year's Tour de France being held in England. It’s a fun idea, and not without merit as a concept, but there’s far more to making a tube map than just putting some coloured route lines down on a page and calling it done.
Beck himself, ever in search of more simplification and rectilinearity in his Diagram, would simply not have approved of the twisty, torturous paths that these stage routes take. In his hands, Epernay to Nancy would have been represented by a simple straight segment (instead of needing three angle changes): Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne by a clean diagonal line. Yes, there’s a desire to indicate the relative lengths of each stage here (making this a map/diagram hybrid of sorts), but there has to be a simpler, cleaner, more Beck-like way to do it.
In my opinion, if you’re going to make such a big deal about the source of your homage, then a better adherence to the design principles espoused by that source can only make for a better end product. And I’m not talking about making a map that’s slavishly identical in every detail to the source: I have no problem with the substitution of what looks like Gotham for Johnston Sans, or the non-rounded corners where the routes change direction: that’s just window dressing on top of what really makes the Tube Map what it is — Beck’s never-ending quest for design clarity.
Source: via Gizmodo
Photo: The Underground Map – Then and Now
A nicely executed little montage of Underground maps through the years. From left to right: what looks like the 1932 version of the F.H Stingemore map, the original 1933 H.C. Beck diagram, and a modern day Tube Map. I have to say, the Underground uniforms in the 1930s were a lot nicer than their modern counterparts!
Poster: Helping London Grow for the Future, Transport for London
London’s certainly come a long way since the Metropolitan Line first opened in 1863 with wooden carriages and steam engines. I wonder what a Victorian Londoner would think of this modern skyline, all soaring, glimmering, curving glass?
Helping London grow for the future. We’ve been serving London since 1863 and our continuing improvements will help you get around for the next 150 years.
Photo: We are Transforming Your Tube
Rather clever and well-executed “under construction” signage seen in Tottenham Court station back in 2010.
Source: Luigi Rosa/Flickr
Historical Map: The “Zéró” London Underground Diagram, 1938
Although clearly based on the H.C. Beck diagram of the period (which was only five years old at the time), this diagram created and printed entirely without Beck’s knowledge. Although the work is unsigned, it is now known that this map was designed by Hans Schleger – perhaps better known by his pseudonym “Zéró” – who had already created a number of memorable posters for London Transport.
Beck was furious, and he wasted no time in letting London Transport know exactly what he thought:
I have just happened to see a proof of a new Underground folder. The “H.C. Beck” diagram has been used, but with considerable and, I suggest, undesirable, alternations by another artist – one not on the staff – without reference to me.
The idea of redesigning the old geographical Underground map in diagram form was conceived by me in 1931; the original diagram, published in 1932 [sic: 1933] was of my own invention and design. Every variation of it since has been either made by me or by the lithographer under my supervision.
When I recently signed a form assigning the copyright of this design to the Board, it was not merely understood, but was promised, that I should continue to make, or edit and direct, any alterations that might have to be made to the design. This practice has been followed without exception since 1932.
I wish therefore to place on record my protest against the action taken in the present instance.
London Transport’s Publicity Officer, Christian Barman, managed to placate Beck, telling him that the new map was meant as an experiment in background shading only, and that “neither Mr. Patmore nor myself quite realised how far [the artist] had gone before we saw a proof.” His response, however, stopped short of assuring Beck that all future amendments to the map would be assigned to him…
As for the map itself, Beck’s assessment is pretty much spot on: the alterations are mostly undesirable. The graduated blue background – meant to highlight the central part of the map – is distracting and interferes with the legibility of type, especially when they are set in green type. The reversal of the Thames from white to blue where it cuts through this prototypical Zone 1 is also very visually distracting.
However, the use of a single circle for interchange stations is actually far simpler than what Beck was using at the time – many stations had two circles, and Hammersmith used three! Beck would experiment with linked “Olympic Ring” circles and other arrangements before setting on the now familiar and ubiquitous “barbell” connector in 1946.
Also of noteis the depiction of planned extensions to the Northern Line that were never completed due to the outbreak of World War II.
Our rating: An evolutionary dead end in the development of the Tube Map, but also the first indication that Beck’s position as the map’s guardian wasn’t as solid as he liked to think. Three stars.
Source: bananastrudel on Etsy
Submission - Fantasy Map: The Internet Tube (worldwide submarine cable network)
Something I came across by accident, the “Internet Tube”, a map of the world’s network of submarine fibre-optic cables. Looks terrible to me, especially since one of the main point of interest, the geographical context, is barely noticeable.
Transit Maps says:
While I feel that the goal of this diagram — the simplification of a vast and complex nodal network down to its basic elements — is a laudable one, the execution leaves a lot to be desired for me. If anything, it’s too simple, leaving out detail that enables you to see how the network of cables actually works.
It seems that the network has been broken down into imaginary ”route lines” with appropriate (if fanciful) names, rather than showing actual undersea cables. While this helps to group countries together thematically, it also could give viewers the idea (for example) that there’s one single cable that runs from the U.S. to Russia to Japan via the Arctic Ocean. There isn’t (yet), and Russia’s submarine cable connections are actually far more complex than could ever be shown on a diagram like this, relying more on cables under the Baltic and Black Seas than any “super cable” that’s implied here.
My other main issue with the diagram is the use of three-letter ISO country codes instead of actual country names. This makes the diagram unnecessarily obtuse — which country is represented by VCT? Or FSM or MNE? If H.C. Beck could fit “High Street Kensington” onto his original tube map, then a clone of his map should really be able to work with actual country names. Perhaps those names could then be supplemented with each country’s top level internet domain code (.au, .uk, etc), which makes far more sense for a map about the Internet than three-letter ISO codes.
Design-wise, it’s Yet Another Tube Map Clone (YATMC), right down to the route line colours and blue type for “station” labels. Yawn.
If you want a submarine cable network map that actually gives you some idea of how it all fits together and how staggeringly, mind-bendingly complex it all really is, then I highly recommend Greg’s Cable Map. Check it out and then realise how amazing it is that you can send an email to the other side of the world in milliseconds without any effort at all on your behalf.
Our rating: Tries hard to simplify an incredibly complex network, but through thematic and design choices, creates something that doesn’t really tell us much apart from the fact that there are cables under the sea and that some countries censor the Internet. One-and-a-half stars.
P.S. - VCT is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, FSM is the Federated States of Micronesia, and MNE is Montenegro.
Historical Map: Ghost Stations of the London Underground
The Underground has been around so long, and its famous Diagram so ingrained in our heads, that we tend to think of it as an immutable object: always the same, never changing. That’s absolutely not so, as this fantastic reworking of the Tube Diagram shows.
Shown here are the 40-plus “ghost stations” of the London Underground — stations that once existed as part of the “Tube”, but no longer do, for varying reasons. Some stations have since been demolished, but others have been transferred to operate under different services like the Overground or National Rail and still exist as a part of London’s greater transit network.
What’s really striking about this map is the huge reach of the Underground outside London. While only ever operated as a special “excursion” service, the journey to Shoeburyness (at the mouth of the Thames) from Central London on the District Line was around 45 miles (or 72 kilometres)! Heading out the other way, the furtherest reaches of “Metro-Land” at Brill and Verney Junction are some 60 miles (95 km) from the centre of the city.
Here’s the complete list on Wikipedia of all the stations shown, giving the reasons for closure and whether the station is still extant or demolished. Good reading!
Design Resource: Transport for London’s “Line Diagram Standards” Guide
Definitely worth a look to see how a major transit agency puts together a comprehensive guide to assembling consistently designed maps. The guide deals with horizontal in-car strip maps and the vertical line maps seen on platforms, but many of the principles still hold true for the design of a full transit map.
Of particular interest is the relationship between the x-height of Johnston Sans and the thickness of the route lines (they’re the same). This value of “x” is also used to calculate the radius of a curve in a route line: the innermost edge of a curve is always three times the value of “x” — never any less. Almost every relationship between objects on the map is defined mathematically, although the nomenclature can be a little less than intuitive sometimes: “x”, “n” and “CH” all make an appearance!
Also, if you ever wanted to know what the PANTONE or CMYK breakdowns for all the Underground route line colours are, this guide tells you that, too!
All in all, a really interesting read — just try and ignore the terrible typos that pop up here and there: “donated” instead of “denoted” on page 11 is my favourite! Click on the image or the link below to download the PDF.
(Source: Transport for London website - 2MB PDF)
Amended Tube Map removes Embankment Interchange for 2014 Works
Even design classics like the London Tube map have to be flexible enough to cope with change. The escalators to the Northern and Bakerloo lines at Embankment station — yes, the very escalators that can be seen in the previously posted cutaway diagram from 1914 — are going to be completely replaced.
The process is going to take 43 weeks starting on January 8 next year. During that time, Northern and Bakerloo trains will pass through Embankment without stopping, as there simply won’t be a way to get from their platforms to the surface or to the District/Circle Line platforms.
As a result, Embankment has been temporarily downgraded from an interchange ring on the map to a station tick, and moved away from the intersection between all the routes. It’s had to be moved quite a distance, because “Embankment” is quite a long name (no hyphenation of names on the Tube map!). As a result, Temple has been moved off the horizontal section of the District/Circle line and placed on the 45-degree segment along with Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street.
I personally don’t think that Temple needed to be moved off the horizontal section: Embankment and Temple could clearly be evenly spaced across the horizontal section — Embankment below the line, Temple above — without any confusion, as the station ticks would clearly “point” to their respective stations. Embankment’s label might have to slightly to the right compared to its tick, but it would be no worse than the placement of Westminster’s label. With these two stations on the horizontal segment, Blackfriars, Mansion House and Cannon Street could all retain their usual positions: I think this would create more even, harmonious spacing of all the stations than the map shown here.
Apparently, this map is appearing on some Northern Line trains but hasn’t been updated on the TfL site yet (and shouldn’t be until the work commences).
(Source: Tweet by Ian Jones — @metro_land)
Photo: Tube Map Livery on GB Railfreight Engine 66721
A couple of great photos showing the unique Underground Map-themed livery on a GB Railfreight engine. The left side of the engine shows a portion of the original 1933 H.C. Beck design, while the right side shows the corresponding part of the 2013 Tube map. I believe that this engine is used to perform maintenance work on sections of the Underground, so the theme is certainly appropriate, as is the engine’s name plaque, seen in the lower image — “Harry Beck”