There’s a new Tube map floating around which is designed to accurately represent the locations of stations and the distances in between them.
The current Tube map, based on the original design by Harry Beck from 1931, is a classic of design, clear and easy to understand. So why this new version? To make it that clear, the existing map distorts the positions of stations relevant to each other. All the lines are straight, whether vertical horizontal or diagonal, rather than reflecting real-life bends and curves.
All this means that people often take a certain route because the map makes it look like it will be the quickest route, when in fact an alternative route may be quicker. Sometimes it is even faster to walk! Coincidentally, a study on this very topic has just been published by a chap named Zhan Guo, who is a professor of Urban Planning and Transportation Policy at NYU Wagner.
It’s against this backdrop that a designer named Mark Noad has published his updated, more accurate version. He doesn’t intend it to replace the Beck design but to be used alongside it. I can’t post it here because it’s not under a Creative Commons licence, but you can see it on his website. It’s worth a look. It’s thoroughly professionally done and must have taken a hell of a lot of time and effort. The nature of the more accurate design means it’s a little more difficult to follow that the original, but if it is that much more accurate I think most people would be prepared to deal with that.
While researching this blog, I’ve come across plenty of ‘alternative’ Tube maps. I already knew ‘The Great Bear’, which is a work of art by Simon Patterson, a copy of which is in the Tate Modern. Each Tube line has a particular theme (such as philosophy) and each station has the name of someone important to that field:
I have also found several new ones, such as this photograph of a section of a phonetic Tube map on sale at Greenwich Market.
Another alternative version gives each station the name of a piece of food it sounds like. Some are better than others – my favourites are ‘Mornington Croissant’ and ‘Red Leicester Square’.
My favourite, though, may be the ‘Sponsored Tube Map’, which imagines what each station would be called if it were sponsored by a similar-sounding product or company, such as ‘Bermondseasy Jet’ for Bermondsey and ‘Weetabixton’ for Brixton. Clever!