Shock London tube map changes..

Once again the mainstream media and the conservative (with a small c) elements of British Society are up in arms becasue Transport for London (TfL) have modified the iconic tube map, removing some fare zones and the very stylised representation of the Thames. The new map is certainly much less clutered than the previous version.

But you would think from the comments this is the end of the world, “How will people find Balham station without using the Thames for reference?” What rubbish, the tube map works so well because it is a very abstract representation of the underground network, placing the relative locations of tube stations to each as more important than their actual geographic locations.

The Tube map has constantly evolved with changes to the network and style changes over the past 70 years. I have a great book by Ken Garland, that illustrates the history of the map, and some of Becks designs from the late 1950′s are quite different from today although they do feature the river !

beck1959

Now is someone would ask TfL why do they make it so difficult to license their schedule data..

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network

4 comments

  1. Nick Wade

    It was always going to be a tough one to update. The tube network has become increasingly large, and the map was expected to serve more purposes than the original design was intended for. It’s rare to see such control in this sort of context put in the hands of a designer – as it appears to have been – which is what I expect is required to radically reduce such complexity to something more simple. I still would have kept the river though! North or South of the river is a very typical way to describe a location in London, on a similar abstract level in which the Tube map describes London. There’s always that awkward balance between the ease of simplicity against the lack of information. TFL has ridiculously difficult to understand pricing much of which is related to zones – the expense of getting it wrong is significant for many customers, and so the ability to plan and the reassurance of knowing you’re in the correct zone is important. The cynical side of me wonders if they are about to introduce new fares and scrap zones. Anyways, do you know who is responsible for the new design?

  2. Ed

    @ Edgemaster, I agree I don’t like it very much, amazing the difference the diagonal lines make.
    Still it’s a shame we are going to lose the new version, I really like its simplicity..

  3. Phil the Sloth

    I have to disagree with Ed on the issue of the Thames, and the fare zones. I have worked in, and around London as a Field service engineer for twenty years. I travel widely on the underground, and enjoy it, warts and all. As a fast visual reference, the Thames, and fare zones are very helpfull. I agree that there is far too much info now crammed onto the map, mostly a problem when referring to the pocket map, beloved of tourists. The Thames still helps to link the visual representation of the abstract, and the real entity that is London, whilst the fare zones are a great help in understanding fare structure and cost.
    On the issue of creating a more physically accurate map, a number of amateurs have created there own versions, without the strictures of London Underground Limited.
    Try looking at this for example
    http://alex4d.wordpress.com/londons-tube-map/
    I love the underground, and that little map is my constant companion.

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