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London tube map with distance grids

London's famous tube map sacrifices geographical accuracy to make a useful diagram. Though a boon to travelers finding their way around the complex network, it does have drawbacks: for example, the distances between stations are all wrong. This makes it hard to estimate journey times, and easy to make mistakes when traveling overground—one's mental map of the city starts to resemble the tube diagram more than the real thing. Boing Boing reader Spiregrain created a version of the map where the background is a subtle, distorted grid. Like longitude and latitude lines on a world map projection, they tell the viewer how much geographic distortion is in play in any given region. [ksglp.org.uk]

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