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Transport / Mass transit

This new take on London's tube and rail map is neat, clear and beautiful

You know, somewhere out there in the great media blob that clings to this world like an overgrown squid, there are journalists receiving leaks from the highest levels of government. There are hacks to whom corporate whistleblowers are even now anonymously emailing proof of corporate misconduct.

Perhaps I could have been one of those guys once. Perhaps. But my life has taken a different path. Instead, I’m the guy to whom people send their new takes on the world’s metro maps.

Hi Jonn,

I have thoroughly updated my London subway map, I thought you would be interested.

I shouldn’t complain, though, because this latest effort is a corker. It comes from Jug Cerović, a Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer; you may remember us singing rhapsodies about his version of tube map back in June.

In this latest version of the map, Cerović has, well, let’s let him speak for himself:

I finally decided to give a go to a most dreaded prospect: mapping the whole London rail system, especially south of the Thames.

Whoa.

Putting together a full London rail map is a pretty big challenge for a designer – far bigger, in fact, than simply re-doing the tube map.


It’s relatively easy to keep a map beautiful when the network it portrays is a simple one. The more complex a system becomes, however, the more difficult it is to keep things looking pretty. Instead of a visually pleasing spider’s web, you end up with a plate of multi-coloured spaghetti. Even at the most basic level of distinguishing lines from one another, there’s a danger of running out of colours.

Cerović has overcome the latter problem by using bright colours for the Tube network, and lighter, pastel ones for the National Rail network. This, he says, “gives the map a hierarchy and better legibility. You see the underground first, then the rest.”

South of the river, where the network gets really messy, Cerović has gone further. Most maps of the current system show the whole of south London in one shade, and the whole of south east in another, to represent the fact each is dominated by a single train operating company.

The result is that, in place of easily traceable route maps, you get a whole quarter of the city’s rail network shown in just two colours. To make matters worse, both Southern and SouthEastern trains serve multiple bits of central London: from the map, it’s often not clear where you train will end up.

So this new map also divides them up by terminal station. The result looks like this:

There are a number of other features of the map worth nothing. It includes some of London’s major parks to aid in orientation:

It uses bold type, to highlight key stations, and tiny numbers to tell you what travelcard zone you’re in:

It uses multiple colours to show different DLR routes, too:

It even shows river boat services.

Inevitably, there are things we’re less convinced by. The increasingly sprawling Overground network uses a single shade of pale orange, despite having about nine different routes now, which feels like the wrong decision. The choice of which ground level walking connections are shown seems a bit arbitrary, too.

And a few errors have crept in. The map shows Great Northern services from King’s Cross leaving London via Highbury & Islington (they don’t), and misses Drayton Park altogether.

But errors like these are perhaps inevitable on a design project of this scale – especially one covering a city with which the mapmaker isn’t intimately familiar. No doubt, they’ll be corrected on a later draft.

Overall, Cerović’s map is packed with information, beautiful to look at, and easier to follow than a network this complex has any right to be. Transport for London’s cartographers should take note.


You can see the map in all its glory on Jug Cerović’s website.

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