Friday, 18 September 2009

I wanna see the sun.... blotted out of the sky!

'The latest London Underground map issued by Transport for London is a cleaner, stripped down version of the previous one. But TfL has deemed it necessary to do away with one little aspect that, for many, is a key navigational part of the map. The river Thames...'

'When you compare the two, it's a bit of a mess isn't it? But why take the Thames out?

Ben Terrett emailed CR yesterday with news of the redesign and, on first inspection, the map looks decidedly less cluttered and is easier to read than earlier editions.

But is a river truly necessary on a map of a subterranean travel network anyway? Well, we're of the belief that, actually it is.'

I have to agree, when I saw this come in my inbox, I thought and.. until I spotted no river, that little bit of representing reality, albeit abstracted through simplification and Beck's 45 degree angling system to mimic what he did with the tube lines. It doesn't have to be Turgot's 1739 (french's long adoration to pure cartography - 100% true geography - right up until RAPT's 2000 Paris guide) style of from the air 3d view, i'm sure allowing just these little abstracted pure cartog examples of landmarks from the territory won't detract from the mapping's aid to navigation, but as the clever sparks at CR pointed out,

'It's (the thames) a key signifier of the true geography of the city and many journeys involve working out whether you're going north of south of the river (just ask a cabbie).'

Surely we should try to retain some level of reality in the mapping? some aspect of true geography, were not saying, like my tutor pointed out to me with a good humorous quote, we do 1:1 map, 1 inch to 1 inch,

'From Sylvie and Bruno Concluded
by Lewis Carroll, first published in 1893.

"That's another thing we've learned from your Nation," said Mein Herr,
"map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What do you
consider the largest map that would be really useful?"

"About six inches to the mile."

""Only six inches!"exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to
six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came
the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country,
on the scale of a mile to the

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers
objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight!
So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure
you it does nearly as well.

Were not saying shut out the sunlight ;o), but no need to to go to the other extreme like this new london underground map and make that many simplifcations, drilling down the data so far that we remove any representation of geography whatsoever, stick with what we had, KEEP THE THAMES. Stay on a par with the French, as they managed to adopt a higher level of abstraction and simplification, away from Turgot, but kept their river... erm... sienne i think.

And personally, when I made a rare venture a abroad (I know it wasn't that far, a channel tunnel abroad ;o) ), I used the map below with iconic depictions of the opera house, the eiffel tower, the museums (typical artist/designer) i was trying to combine this with the subway map, cross referencing the stations and geographic proximity to that of stations to get around. Therefore I think ever so slight spatial allowances for typical landmarks in the topographic landscape such as Big Ben, Guerkin, Tate should be depicted or at least encoded somehow to aid us non-residents.

Telling the whole story and blocking out the sunlight is obviously not that much of an aid, although funny, nor therefore then a map, showing the whole territory rather than aiding with simplification through 'making selections' on reality.

But likewise complete abstraction such as this new underground map removing
any geographic depiction, 0% pure cartography, an aid, removing the river is
just as well serving to block out the sunlight (our level of understanding and
patience) as does the other end.


Find a balance (as there was already btw....... if it isn't broke....)

80% abstraction & 20% pure cartography (albeit that this 20% might well have a level of simplification also such as iconicising - - I know I prob made-up a word, but lets push the lexicon ;o) - - )

I know as a designer we have to challenge the stat quo and push our perceptions and representations but I'm sure there is a far too high a level of perception required to realise where your are without some geography in this type of representation - mapping info! It does look cleaner, with i think more white space, but put some pure cartog in there... please.


No sooner (behind by a couple of days) do I post, than I find from Jonathon Crowe at the map room usually the person with the most up-to-the-minute news on mapping btw, is the plea to Let us SEE THE SUNLIGHT is answered....

btw... I avoided mentioning about the fare zones, but I felt aggrieved at the elimination of the zones myself also (not a londoner) as I do appreciate being able to determine costs / travel criteria.


ps dont paint it black... love the stones... btw dont you always notice how films always use this song along side representing evil on goings... full metal jacket at the end i think, devils advocate... and i'm sure there were others.

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