Geographically accurate Tube map

London's Tube map is a masterpiece of abstraction, abandoning accuracy to create a more easily-navigated mental map of the city. Designed by Harry Beck in 1931, the diagrammatic format has changed little, even in the stylistic details, since then. Occasionally a designer attempts a more realistic plan, but the results only add confusion proportionate to London's demented geography.

Mark Noad's revision, however, is a weirdly convincing blend. It uses Beck's design fundamentals--the long straight lines and equidistant stations--but gently deforms them to hint at, if not adhere to, the true lay of the land. I dare say that I prefer it. Except the font. That font is wrong.

From Noad's blog:

The debate about the meaning and purpose of design is an important one, in particular the relationship between the ‘product’ and the user and how a graphic (map/diagram/whatever) can help/hinder someone in their decisions. Future updates of the map will add to this debate as we explore ways to access more information through the website and app.

There's something almost sinister about how good it is, like an artifact from a parallel universe where Beck had a nice long early lunch that day.

London Tubemap


    1. @boingboing-06bd2df0534a430a7ee6a006a5dfd218:disqus  Now that is interesting and valuable for tourists on hot days when you don’t want to be permanently stuck on the tube but occasionally need to hop on for distances.  I’d say the geographically accurate version is kinda hellish.

    2. I originally came to the comments to ask if anyone had ever done something like a false-color map or something similar that showed what the level of space squeeze was at different points in the map, and then I saw that your comment gave me exactly what I came here to find!

      Kudos to you!

  1. I would stare at this map when on the tube and wonder so deeply about how much space was actually between these stops that I would miss my stop.

    I would pay for a NYMTA subway map that is geographically (same as scale?) accurate.

  2. Thank you boing boing, for making me realize that my interest in maps is a little more wide-reaching than previously thought.

    this is so cool!

    @boingboing-06bd2df0534a430a7ee6a006a5dfd218:disqus that map is pretty cool too, actually. 

    It’s amazing how visualizations of the world via things like public transit routing maps can alter people’s perceptions of the real world… I know that my mental map of the [SF] Bay Area is almost wholly maintained by BART’s route maps.

  3. Afraid I still think Beck’s is easier to navigate with. This idea would get crazy once you all all the other zones, and having lived on London for 8 years now, I have always found the Beck map works perfectly.

  4. There was a true geographic tube map knocking about a while back, until Transport for London jumped all over it (with some lame excuse about it being somehow useful for terrorists). 
    It was actually quite useful for seeing those stations where a quick walk above-ground was better than changing lines etc.

  5. I would have much preferred this to the abstract map when visiting.

    Best of all is a real map with stations and lines overlaid, but at that point it’s purely for tourists.

  6. Here’s challenge: try to find your way from Sheperd’s Bush to Cockfosters.

    I’ve wondered about the distances between metros in Montréal. I don’t know the distance comparison but the speed between metro seems much faster in Paris. It seemed like waiting for the metro (not the RER) took like a minute max in Paris, where in Montréal, it can take, maybe, 3, 5 or 10 minutes, and that’s not if something has fucked up. It’s nice that the London one is so big, I wish the one here was as big.

  7. The problem, it seems, would be type legibility in smaller formats. The central area stops would be highly condensed, forcing either very small type or a very large map to see everything at once.

  8. spiregrain, that is great – but surely the next step should be to take the street map of London and warp it to fit the grid you made? Would that be feasible? I would love to see it.

  9. Pretty damn awesome map, as an occasional visitor to London I can now see why some routes take so much longer (or faster) than anticipated.  The only way this could be better is if it worked in the average journey times between the major stations.

  10. Actually, a study has been made recently on Harry Beck’s design and shows that its confused up to 30% of passengers in taking the wrong route or choosing the wrong station to walk to. This costing millions of wasted time, not to mention packed trains and so forth. And not only on the London tube, but for all public transport around the world, since their maps are very much inspired by his design. So, this design, Brits are very proud of and like to mention as a reference, is a piece of sh…

      1. true :-)  I had originally read an article in Le Monde about this study, because recently Paris has changed its Metro map to be more geographically correct. 
        So, I googled a british article to accompany my post. I guess the Dailymail a poor choice.

        Read some of his studies here:

  11. The font is ITC Johnston, a digital version of Edward Johnston’s Underground Alphabet (another, more interesting one is P22’s btw) for the London Subway. What’s bothering you, except for the size?

  12. I really like this attempt at making the original a bit more accurate, while preserving the feel. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than that horrific psychedelic checkerboard creation a couple of posts up the page. That thing’s illegible.

    Still, you really can’t go wrong with the original.

  13. This looks similar to the map I used for the Paris Metro when I visited there in November of last year. I spent 10 nights in Paris and that one map served me well for about 95% of my travel needs; it was an excellent blend of diagram and map.

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