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Map Showcase: My Favourite Designs

A selection of my designs that are particularly interesting for me, with explanations. Click on the maps for larger images. Dates refer to the first signing-off, but maps might subsequently have been updated or corrected; the versions as at June 2017 are illustrated.

Many of these creations featured in my monthly newsletter as Map of the Month. See my newsletter archive for more detailed descriptions of them. Posters can be purchased from my web shop.

Crazy Tube Map
London Crazy Tube Map (2004)

My first convention-busting map, inspired by Henry Beck’s own experiments with multiple angles, and unofficial designs. It started
with diagonals at 30°, 45° and 60° but I quickly realised that the straightest possible line trajectories would need many more than
eight angles. Distinctly disturbing to many people, the map speaks
an unusual visual dialect; for people used to more conventional designs, it needs a few days of familiarisation before it makes sense.

Curvy Tube Map
London Curvy Tube Map, version 2 (2007)

Despite the flexibility of Crazy Tube Map, corners remain, and the fewer there are, the more the ones that are left draw attention to themselves. Again taking a cue from Henry Beck’s experiments and unofficial designs, the intention for Curvy Tube Map was to smooth away harsh corners, giving gentle easy curves. This map polarises people: half love its playful organicness, half hate its lack of order.
I was very relieved that version 1 withstood adding the Overground.

Paris Curves
Paris All-Curves Metro Map (2007)

As a vocal critic of the awful RATP design introduced in 2000, which utterly fails to simplify Paris, merely turning one shape of chaos into another, I am still surprised at just how easily the curvilinear version defeats it in usability tests, up to 50% faster for planning journeys.
The design features in many of my publications.

Cranky Tube Map
London Cranky Tube Map
red text version (2007)

An early experiment into parodying bad design, making the map so bad that even the most devout worshipers of standard design rules might notice that all is not well. To heighten the unpleasantness, here is the version with red station names. The trick with making a map
like this is for the awfulness to be so built in that the map is unfixable. Straightening a few lines won’t work, throw it away and start again.

Dow LMS Map London LMS Suburban Railway Map, 1935,
reconscructon of a design by George Dow (2009)

If I could go back in time and retrieve one lost map, which would it be? A tough decision, but it would be wrong not to shortlist this one, which only exists as a monochrome reproduction. The standard rule book was barely established when George Dow tore it up in style, with a wonderfully balanced, exciting design.

Hexalinear Evil Twin Map London Hexalinear Underground Map,
Evil Twin (2010)

Hexalinear angles suit London well, but only when the correct orientation is used. I call the duo of maps the Good Twin and the Evil Twin. The second one shows, gloriously, what can go wrong when angles that are inappropriate are used to map a city. The whole of London seems to be being sucked into the southwestern corner.

Circles Tube Map London Concentric Circles Underground Map (2013)

Inspired by other designs appearing on the internet, showing the new Overground loop as a circular line, it was never really intended to be taken seriously and instead was a cartographic joke; You want circles, well you can have them, but be careful what you wish for! The map promptly went viral, and the massive public response set me thinking about why a map that conflicted so much with design expectations was proving so popular.

NY City Subway Map New York City Concentric Circles Subway Map, version 1 (2013)

This design really did come to me in a dream. Having dismissed the possibility
of creating a circles map for a network without a clear orbital element, the prototype assembled itself in my mind while I was asleep, and in the morning it was there, I could see it. A swift trip to the computer and the basics were laid
out in minutes. I was less surprised by the reception to this than before, it is an immensely powerful design, and forces the city network into an unprecedented level of organisation. version 2 successfully includes the 2nd Avenue Subway.

Tokyo Circles Map Tokyo Concentric Circles Subway Map (2013)

A rare foray to the Far East, the Tokyo network is fiendishly complicated and its official map is notoriously shapeless. As I worked
on this, it stopped being a utilitarian subway map, turning into a delicate work of art. I am told by a native that its overall shape is a Japanese good luck charm.

Berlin 1980 S-Bahn map Berlin S-Bahn Map, 1980,
reconstructon of an
East German design (2014)

Seeing a map for the first time is always a delight, but when the map
is a strong one, previously unknown to the viewer, and up close in its massive poster-sized glory, then the experience becomes much more powerful. This marvellous map, exuding the impossible Berlin political situation from every line and letter, was only available to purchase as a postcard, but that needn’t stop a dedicated map enthusiast, and the digitally recreated version captures all the magnificence of the original.

Chicago Frank Lloyd Wright Map Chicago El Map, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright (2015)

The splendid early stained glass work of the master architect has always captivated me, but how to embody its spirit in a decorative map? Choosing seven distinct stained glass windows to define the graphic identity of each line was an intriguing starting point, but getting the patterns to work with each other was a massive challenge. The map took four years to complete, reaching Version H before I had a design that I was happy with. It was worth every second.

Rotterdam De Stijl Map Rotterdam Metro Map,
inspired by De Stijl (2016)

Not all decorative maps require years of toil to get them right. The clear crisp minimalism of Mondrian and other pioneers of the De Stijl movement have an internal logic to them that means that once you start on a certain design path, the underlying logic sweeps you inexorably to a destination. It would be intriguing to set this design task to different artists, looking at the similarity of the results.

Paris Art Nouveau Map Paris Metro Map, inspired by Art Nouveau (2017)

I’ve created enough Art Nouveau maps (2009, 2015) for my technique to develop over time, but nonetheless each map functions well in its own right. To depict successfully the Paris Metro in this way,
I needed to take the network back in time, but even then the complex effect that I wanted led to a design time of over a year. If ever there was a case of the font making the map, this is it, and Guimard’s lettering proves to be astonishingly legible.