What the London Underground used to be like

From the Kino Library comes this set of film clips shot on the London Underground in the 1960s and 1970s.

View at end of tube platform looking up at crowded platform and tube train, Victoria, pulling in. Men and women passengers board train, pushing on. POV from front of train through tunnel and past passengers waiting on platform as it comes to a halt. Shot on board tube carriage, sun streams through windows as it rides through London suburbs. Men in bowler hats reading newspapers. One woman in 1960s outfit sits in FG. Commuters. Passengers bounce around as train moves. Scene gets darker as train goes through tunnel. INT dark tube carriage. Men and women sit reading, quiet. INT tube station great shot at base of escalator, people coming down. Lots of miniskirts. Late 1960s fashions. 1960s passengers out of tube and up stairs, poster just seen ‘Heals Sale Now On’. People walking up stairs. People coming down escalator.

I lived in London in the late 1970s, when it was as depicted here but more run down, and the late 1990s, when it was all being renovated into a clean new sci-fi set. Different worlds! (Except for the Northern Line, which for some reason was not being upgraded and I guess is still exactly like this video.) Read the rest

London Underground releases official geographic map

London's subway system switched early to an abstract map (PDF), and it became a legendary work of design. It just published an internally-used geographic version of map (PDF), however, for the first time in a century—and it's awesome. Read the rest

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] Read the rest

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 Read the rest