Monday, December 22, 2008

New York Subway (a comparison)

Further to my obsession of the London Underground, I thought it would make sense to have a look at how other underground networks from around the word have been visualized.

In 1972, Italian designer Massimo Vignelli re-designed George Solomon's New York Subway map; and I think it is a fantastic piece of work. 

All the lines are represented by different colours, and each station represented by a black dot. In contrast to the original map design, the visual problem of awkward angles of the lines was solved by making each line 45 0r 90 degrees. Although this simplifies the map immensely, an obvious number of geographical liberties had to be taken. For example the map shows Central Park as a square rather than a rectangle.

However I do not see this as a problem. The aim of any map is to provide information in a way that is simple to understand/read. Re-proportioning certain geographical aspects of the map would certainly be detrimental to this objective. 

Do you spot a resemblance in this map? 

Obviously Vignelli was inspired by Harry Beck's design of the London Underground map (1933). Beck was the one who made all lines 45 and 90 degrees; and more importantly made the map a representation of the underground infrastructure, not influenced by the geographical layout of London itself. 

This makes me think about how visualization works. Do aspects of a design/map/flow chart etc need to be neglected in order to achieve ultimate simplicity?


Qin said...

interesting question :)
wish that i know the answer... check out the berlin underground, it was re-designed by Meta-design when the east and west berlin re-united and the two traffic systems have to be integrated, the designer have done a good job on this complex one! and I personally love the Barcelona underground sign, very modern but still functional~

by the way, welcome to the world of signage :)

Gio said...

haha :) the world of signage sounds great!

Thanks again Qin. I've just read a few articles on the Barcelona, Berlin and Moscow undergrounds and I'll be posting my findings here very soon.

I'm really enjoying my underground maps just now!