Redrawing the London Tube Map

Back to Beck Tube Map

Designer Cameron Booth wondered whether London’s Tube Map could simply be drawn better. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the current iteration of the Tube Map is a diagram that’s almost completely forgotten that it is one. There’s very little rhythm, balance or flow to the composition of the map outside the central ‘thermos flask’, and there’s shockingly little use of a underlying unifying grid. As a result, nothing really aligns properly with anything else anymore.” His solution included getting rid of fare zones, redrawing accessibility icons, rejigging alignments, and lots of other changes. Read his post and his follow-up post for the end result (or results: he’s continuing to refine the map).

Previously: INAT London Metro MapA Geographically Accurate Tube Map.

INAT London Metro Map

inat-london

Jug Cerović has reimagined the map of London’s transit network. It’s one of several transit maps that share a common design languageMapping London calls it “a lovely map of the London system that manages to combine the tube and commuter rail networks into a single map that is clear and pleasant to read, unlike the official ones. The INAT London Metro Map is a lesson in simplifying and making attractive a complex topological map.” Though I think the rhetoric about moving away from Beck is a bit overdone—it’s not like we’re completely abandoning diagrammatic map design here.

Previously: A Geographically Accurate Tube Map.

A Geographically Accurate Tube Map

London Connections map (detail)

There is no transit map more iconic than the London Underground’s Tube map. First created by Harry Beck in the 1930s, the design has inspired countless other transit network maps that are schematic diagrams rather than geographically accurate maps. But Transport for London, which operates the Underground, also has a geographically accurate map of the network: it was strictly for internal use, but a freedom of information request has now brought it to light. It’s available here (PDF). The response has been so good that TfL now says it’ll be added to their website. CityMetric, Mapping London.

Tube Map Live

Tube Map Live icon Andy Drizen’s Tube Map Live (iTunes), a free iOS app (native iPhone and iPad versions) that shows the real-time positions of London Underground trains on the iconic Tube map, using official data. Hypnotic visualization, but the app essentially promotes Drizen’s £1.99/$2.99 Tube Tracker: tapping on trains or stations calls up an advertising popup. Via TUAW.

The KickMap Comes to London

KickMap London screenshot

In 2007 Eddie Jabbour released the KickMap, a map of the New York subway system that tried to square the circle of various competing and controversial New York subway map designs. The KickMap later became an iOS app; I reviewed the iPad version in 2010. Now Eddie reports that he’s released a KickMap for the London Underground—not satisfied with updating Massimo Vignelli, he’s going after Harry Beck.

[W]hile the Tube Map’s updates over the decades have attempted to follow Beck’s design, a glance at the current iteration reveals that his design heirs have failed to retain his core credo of clarity and ease of use. Ongoing expansion of the Underground, the addition of the new Overground system, and essential disability access information have made most modern Tube Maps, both official and independent, overly complex and difficult to read. … [I]nstead of redesigning the entire map vocabulary as we did for KickMap NYC, we embarked on a fresh new effort to recapture Beck’s clarity and ease of use.

A regular Underground user would be able to evaluate whether the map succeeds in its goal to improve the Tube map’s clarity; I haven’t even so much as been to London, much less taken the Tube. But I’ve downloaded the app (disclosure: I received a promo code) and have played around with it a bit.

What I can say is that the map is gorgeous and scrolls fluidly (at least on an iPhone 5). In a nice touch, it adds detail like neighbourhoods and landmarks only when zoomed in, preserving a simpler, less cluttered map when zoomed out.

Those of you who’ve used the New York KickMap will find much that is familiar. While it can use your iPhone’s GPS to locate the nearest station—a nice touch on a non-geographic map—it does lack the New York app’s Directions function, which can route you between two stations on the network. Something to ask for, I think, in an update.

It costs only £0.69/$0.99 and is a universal iPhone/iPad app. iTunes link.