We Londoners are pretty territorial over our Tube map. Designed by Harry Beck in 1933, the map has not changed dramatically since that date and when the zones and river were removed from the map last September, there was public outcry that has only just died down.
But despite this, University of Essex researcher Dr Maxwell Roberts will explore whether Beck’s design classic can be bettered at an exhibition held at architect Scott Brownrigg’s Covent Garden office next month.
With the Olympics approaching and Crossrail threatening to confuse an already busy map, Roberts began experimenting with alternative ways of representing the warren of underground tunnels.
Starting with Beck’s basic design rules – replacing chaotic routes with strait horizontal, vertical or 45 degrees diagonal lines – Roberts began to explore whether these rules are helpful and whether they are adequate for today’s network.
He says, ‘With today’s emphasis on using public transport and the ever-increasing complexity of networks around the world, it is vital that designers create the best possible maps. All too often, the general public is faced with designs that are poor quality, off-putting, and perhaps barely useable.’
The exhibition will display a number of Roberts’ maps, some that aim to show examples of good design and some, such as a map inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which show that aesthetically-pleasing diagrams aren’t always the easiest to follow. It should be an interesting take on a well-loved design classic, even if there’s little chance we’ll adopt one of Roberts’ alternative maps.
Underground Maps Unravelled: Explorations in Information Designruns from 7-22 October at Scott Brownrigg, 77 Endell Street, London, WC2H.