I have up to nine lectures on offer, all are self-contained or can run as a series of any length. Mix and match as necessary. They can be tailored to all audiences and are lively, entertaining, and factually accurate. Each assumes one hour speaking plus questions (there are always lots of questions) but I am happy to talk for longer if there is time. I prefer the computer and projector to be supplied by the venue (carrying heavy equipment across London is not fun). I encode my presentations as Apple Keynote, Microsoft Powerpoint, and PDF format, on memory stick, CD, USB drive and firewire drive. So far the supplied equipment has never defeated me. For non-profit bodies, I am happy to speak as long as expenses are covered. If possible, I can offer items for sale such as posters, books, and exhibition catalogues. For more details, email me at email@example.com
I have managed to summarise my work in five minutes!
The nine lectures available are listed below. Topics in mauve are recommended for one-off or introductory presentations.
- The History of the Underground Map Part 1: Searching for Simplicity, Seeking a Standard This presentation traces the roots and context of the development of the schematic London Underground Map, covering Henry Beck's work along with some of his more (or less) creative predecessors. Characteristic of this period are innovation and uncertainty. With no established principles of 'good design', the pioneers had nothing but their own judgement to guide them. The immediate years after Henry Beck are covered, including his controversial 'sacking'.
- The History of the Underground Map Part 2: Wishful Thinking and Decades of Decline In the 1970s Underground map design shifted from amateurs to professional cartographers and graphic designers, and from hand-drawn artwork to computer technology. Characterised by periods of stability and sudden transition and political interference, the fortunes of the Underground Map are distinctly mixed during this period, with a gradual reduction in design standards despite (or perhaps because of) the emergence of new technology.
Note that it IS possible to distill the entire history of the Underground map into a single one-hour lecture, but this is not recommended. The audience tends to get a little shell-shocked in the process.
- London's Secret Railways: Mapping the Underground's Rivals The London Underground network forms around one-third of the railways in the capital, and is entirely or virtually absent from many boroughs. Nonetheless, all of London is well-served by rail, and there is a long history of maps of rival systems. The ultimate goal of a good combined map of London's railways still evades us, but there have been numerous attempts in the past, and with continuing fares integration, this will to occupy designers well into the future.
- Digitising Design: Recreating or Reinventing History Lost works always appeal no matter whether they are literary, musical, or artistic. The London Underground map is no exception. Prototypes are described in archives, but the actual designs are lost forever. Alternatively, drawings survive of maps that were never implemented, so that all we have are rough plans rather than carefully implemented and typeset end-products. With some educated guesses, we can try to recreate them, but what are the pitfalls of this? Can we appreciate the intentions of the designers in all their glory, or are we embarking on hopelessly anachronistic wild goose chases?
- Underground Maps Uncharted: A Parallel Universe of Unofficial Designs We have the history of the officially designed London Underground map, but we also have a parallel history of unofficial designs, often produced in foreign countries and reproduced in guidebooks for tourists visiting London. Relentlessly pursued as copyright violations by London Transport, and with little or no archiving anywhere, their history is even harder to research than official maps. Designs are often entertaining, reveal different traditions in different countries, and real gems occasionally surface.
- Information Provision or Information Pollution: The Design Challenge In theory, the Underground map is a journey planner: knowing start and destination station, what is the best route between the two? In practice, nothing is ever that simple, and the provision of effective supplementary information has been a challenge ever since the first maps were created. From valid interchanges to station opening hours, simple solutions have evaded designers for decades. In this presentation, I will trace the history of supplementary information on the Underground map, and show why good solutions are almost impossible to attain.
- Underground Maps Unravelled Part 1: Design Challenges and Challenging Designs As urban rail networks around the world grow and develop, so the challenge to designers to create attractive usable maps increases. What are the hallmarks of a well-designed map versus a poorly designed one? Are Henry Beck's rules (horizontal and vertical lines and 45 degree diagonals) really the optimum means of achieving the best possible design? What happens if we break the rules? There will be many surprises: the quality of design seems to matter more than the rules, and different rules suit different networks.
- Underground Maps Unravelled Part 2: International Transfer Paris, New York, Madrid, Moscow, and Tokyo all have unique systems and unique solutions. By looking at their design traditions, we can better understand our own, and their successes and failures in mapping their networks - often far more complex than the London Underground - can point towards future avenues, and pitfalls to avoid.
Here are some reviews of other presentations I have given: