The Tube Map: How will our understanding of the London Underground map evolve?

Posted by , 22 August 2011

The iconic London Underground map has helped many of us understand how to get around our frankly gargantuan capital city. Since the Harry Beck map appeared in 1931, characterised by lines at 45 degree angles, the design has remained consistent, with new lines added as the city has continued to expand. Beck’s classic cartography has also proved influential, becoming the template for many international metro maps, including that of modern day Barcelona.

But imagine if this:

London Underground Map Art Print

The London Underground Map that we know and love

Was transformed into this?:

Proposed London Underground Map

Proposed London Underground Map, designed by Mark Noad

Mark Noad, the designer of this new version of the tube map,was primarily motivated by friends from outside London, who feel that the design as it stands is confusing. One criticism is that the current map bears little relation to London at street level, where you wouldn’t realise that Chancery Lane and Farringdon stations are only 500 metres away from each other, or that getting to Epping from Tottenham Court Road on the Central Line takes a lot longer than getting to West Ruislip from Tottenham Court Road, despite looking like similar distances on the current map. Other justifications for the revised map include helping visitors from abroad during the London 2012 Olympics, a guide that’s easier to view on smartphones and also the incorporating overland lines such as the new Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction route.

London Underground Logo Art Print

London Underground Logo Art Print with the classic typeface invented in the 1930s

Personally, I think this prototype map has a beauty of it’s own, and it’s very close to maps from the early days of tube travel (astonishing when you realise the tube opened in 1863!). The curving lines are elegant, as is the inclusion of the Thames. Additionally, I didn’t realise how far Richmond and Wimbledon are from each other, and this map confirms suspicions of how well North London is served by the tube line, compared to the lack of stations in the south of the capital.

What do you think of this proposal? Do you like it, or do you cling to the much loved current London Underground map which now seems so ingrained into our minds?

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