There was a good article in Monday’s Independent which used the debate around the map as a starting point for a more general discussion on mapping transport systems: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/rethinking-the-tube-map-a-design-for-strife-2337609.html
What’s interesting is reading through the comments which are a good reflection of the overall feedback we’ve been receiving. There seem to be three main lines of thought against this map which can be summarised as: it’s ugly; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it; and you don’t need to be geographically accurate when you are underground. I have no problem with criticism, it helps make a better map, but there are a few points that need to be made in response to these comments which will hopefully add to the debate.
The relative aesthetic qualities of the two maps is an interesting one. There have been as many comments for – ‘beautiful’, ‘very sexy’, ‘ This may be the best piece of design I’ve ever seen’ – as there have against – ‘an ugly waste of time’, ‘looks like it’s been dropped’, and ‘aesthetically frightful’ (the most eloquent so far thanks to Mark Gatiss). Maybe aesthetics should have been higher up my priority list when designing it but it really was about finding the clearest solution as was Beck’s original which is equally ugly and beautiful in its own way.
It ain’t broke? As reported previously, I am a fan of Beck’s original map and in no way claim to have produced something that is better than his but the current version does not come up to his high standards. Those that defend the current map in Harry Beck’s name are really not looking at it carefully enough; there is room for wholesale improvement within those design parameters. The problem with anyone independent trying to improve it is that they would be unlikely to be able to publish it because of TfL’s copyright enforcement. And those responsible for the current map don’t seem to understand or care about the rigour and quality Beck applied during the 30 years he was responsible for the map.
As for not needing geography underground, that is probably true. But recent additions to the system, London Overground (the clue’s in the name), Docklands Light Railway, and Croydon Tramlink are all on the surface. In 1931 (Beck’s original) less than half the system was underground anyway; the proportion is much less now. I am working on a map of the National Rail Oystercard services to add at a later date, nearly all of which are above ground. But, if anything, the geographical inaccuracies are even worst than the underground map; check out the relative positions of Grays and Erith against an atlas for a good example.
One other point that keeps coming up is best summarised in a post by a stray Daily Mail reader who somehow found their way to the Independent site: ‘I’m astonished that public money is being wasted on this ridiculous project to appeasing a few semi-literate visitors’. Well, I can assure ‘Bombaybred’ that no public money was harmed in the making of this map, it has been funded entirely from my own pocket and the goodwill of some of my friends. This map is not official and it is not going to replace the official version, it is simply an alternative so people can choose which they prefer.