Interesting Books and Links
No Need to Ask: Early Maps of London's Underground
By David Leboff and Tim Demuth
1999, Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1854142151
Looks at the development of Underground network maps in London before Henry Beck produced the first diagrammatic version.
Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off: George Dow and the Development of the Diagrammatic Railway Map
By Andrew Dow
2005, Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1854142917
Don't overlook this book. It takes a more searching than usual look at the evolution of diagrammatic railway maps. It then charts the career of a lesser-known individual who commenced work before Henry Beck and was, at the very least, the equal to him in terms of pioneering, creative output and productivity.
Mr Beck's Underground Map
By Ken Garland
1994, Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1854141686
A detailed account of Henry Beck's work on the London Underground map. After some background, covers Beck's work from the early 1930s to early 1960s.
The United Kingdom
Compared with London, the majority of maps from the rest of the United Kingdom seem positively archaic!
British Railway Maps of Yesteryear
1991, Ian Allen, ISBN 0711020191
A selection of maps of Britain's railway companies, taken from the late 19th to mid 20th century. No commentary, and the maps are not even dated! Nonetheless, the illustrations give a good overview of traditional railway cartography in Britain during this period. Out of print, but readily available secondhand.
The Times Mapping The Railways
By Julian Holland and David Spaven
2011, Times Books, ISBN 0007435991
A history of Britain's railway companies, illustrated by an assortment of maps. Not really a comprehensive history of railways, or maps, but some nice illustrations.
The Rest of The World
Around the world, urban rail networks have their own stories of map development. Sometimes emulating London, sometimes developing their own styles, driven by the features of their networks, national psyche and politics.
Metro Maps of the World
By Mark Ovenden
2005 (2nd ed), Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1854142887
A comprehensive catalogue of just about every single metro map available in the world, along with commentary and, for the larger systems, some history of their maps. Also available in Dutch, and a softback published by Penguin for American readers (Transit Maps of the World). Web page for the book is here.
Railway Maps of the World
By Mark Ovenden
2011, Viking Books, ISBN 0670022659
Overview of railway maps worldwide, partly a history of mapping, partly an atlas of maps, one for every country that still runs a passenger network. The American version is called Great Railway Maps of the World. Web page for the book is here.
Paris Metro Style in Map and Station Design
By Mark Ovenden
2008, Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1854143228
The Paris Metro is one of the densest and most comprehensive in the world, and its twisting tangled lines make mapping the network one of the greatest challenges. This does not deter designers though, and, befitting for the most visited city in the world, more different maps of the Paris Metro have been created than for all the other urban rail networks in the world put together. This book gives a detailed overview of the history of the Paris Metro, told from the perspective of maps, signs, and station architecture, and has an excellent sellection of independent as well as official maps. Also as a softback published by Penguin for American readers. Web page for the book is here.
Vignelli: Transit Maps
By Peter B. Lloyd
2012, RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, ISBN 9781933360621
The New York City Subway is one of the great urban rail networks of the world, but its maps remain resolutely geographical. In fact, the NYCTA has flirted with diagrammatic maps in the past, but these have never quite succeeded. The network is vast, with many stations, express trains, and service patterns that vary considerably according to the time of day. Couple this with stations named by street rather than neighbourhood (for example, there are five separate stations called 23rd Street) and the challenge of producing an enduring diagrammatic map has proved too much for designers. This volume is the first of a remarkable trilogy of meticulously researched books telling the story of the New York Subway map, capturing the passion and emotion that the often-controversial designs have generated. Web page for the book is here.
Subway Style: 100 Years of Architecture and Design in the New York City Subway
New York City Transit Museum
2004, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, ISBN 158479349X
This book is about the New York Subway in general, but has a very good selection of maps reproduced in full, unfortunately not always at the highest possible quality.
Das Berliner U- und S-Bahnnetz. Eine Geschichte in Streckenplanen von 1888 bis heute
By Alfred B. Gottwaldt
2007, Transpress, ISBN 3613713047
Roughly translated, the title goes "The Berlin U- and S-Bahn network, a history in maps from 1888 to today." Berlin has two urban rail networks, with the U-Bahn tending to cover the inner city and the S-Bahn the outer area. This has produced a rich assortment of maps, including one of the earliest fully diagrammatic network maps (the 1931 S-Bahn map). Politics then disrupted progress, eventually leading to a uniquely divided city and divided network maps. This book is in German, but contains a good selection of maps. If I have one criticism, it is that the book resolutely refuses to expand beyond 88 pages, despite the rich history of Berlin maps, and political turmoil that has afflicted the network over the decades.
Das Hamburger U- und S-Bahnnetz: Eine Geschichte in Streckenplanen von 1842 bis heute
By Alfred B. Gottwaldt
2011, Transpress, ISBN 3613714094
A companion volume to the Berlin one by the same author, but a little bit disappointing. There are a lot of tram maps, and not that many S- and U-Bahn maps.
Ein Jahrhundert Berliner U-Bahn in Streckenplanen und Fotos
By Uwe Poppel
2002, Jaron Verlag, ISBN 3897730499
"A Century of the Berlin U-Bahn in maps and photos." Similar to the other book, but with some different maps. Unfortunately out of print, but worth trying to track down.
And the rest?
Moscow, Madrid, Japan? Many cities of the world have fascinating histories of map design for their metros. Perhaps they will have their own books one day.
There are a lot of books on maps out there, but most are historical, for example telling the story of maps, or a city that has been mapped. Fascinating and colourful, they don't say much about how to go about designing a map. There are quite a few books compiled by graphic designers which include sections on maps, but although many such authors are keen to see information well-presented and easy-to-use, they lack the necessary background to convey the fundamentals of what the user needs to know, and how this is best conveyed to the user.
The Design of Everyday Things
By Donald A. Norman
1998, MIT Press, ISBN 0262640376
Not a book about designing maps, but a book about usability. Humans have cognitive limitations: their attention, memory, and reasoning ability, as well as natural tendencies to interpret information in certain ways, all need to be paid attention to by designers. This book takes the hard-line view that whenever the user makes a mistake, we should be looking for a design flaw that caused the mistake, rather than blaming the user for being inattentive or careless. Whether or not designers agree with this view, it highlights the fact that the qualities of the user must never be taken for granted or treated as an irritation. Yes, people can learn, but why should they have to? A designer might save a day by being slapdash or lazy, but how much time must a million Underground users potentially waste in order for this attitude to be excusable.
By J. S. Keates
1996, Longman, ISBN 0582239273
This is a wonderfully lucid and acerbic antidote to the political, sociological, and maps-equal-art writing of recent years. The author is an expert in the practicalities of designing and using real maps, rather than a theorist sitting in an ivory tower. Although this book is about cartography in general, many of the points made are relevant when thinking about diagrammatic maps. The only disappointment with this book is that it is short of illustrations, had it been written today rather than ten years ago, perhaps it would have been a little less austere on this front.
London Underground Maps in Guide Books From Around the World
Often, guide books to London (and street atlases, and folding maps) included a contemporary official Underground map. However, there is also a wealth of other material out there, including unofficial London Underground maps created by publishers who, for whatever reason, did not wish to use the official version. Also interesting are various 'escaped proofs'; maps which were prototyped by London Transport but were never officially issued by them.
This material is difficult to research because modern tourist guide books are not very collectible: used for a couple of years, then thrown away (what use is an out-of-date guide book to anyone?) long before it occurs to anyone that they may contain interesting maps. Fortunately, the early series are now considered collectible, which means that historic material is now being preserved.
Important guidebook series which contain interesting material include the British Ward Lock Red Guides. These have tended to use official maps of the Underground. In the 1950s and 1960s, these were printed without the obtrusive gridlines that were added to London Transport's own-issued maps, which gives them a cleaner appearance. From Germany, Baedeker's Guides tended to include very finely detailed maps of London's railways, long after London Transport and its predecessors had given up including such fine detail. Finally, the Anglo-French Blue Guides have used a huge variety of Underground maps, and are well worth a look, although they are hardest to track down in second-hand bookshops. Don't forget to look for the French versions too.
And Yet More Links
Douglas Rose has spent all of his working life trying to make travel easier for people using public transport, and he designed London Underground maps from 1984 to 1987. He believes that the best designs are those that are so transparently easy and effortless to use that people do not realise just how much work went into creating them. His thoughts on effective design can be found at www.dougrose.co.uk, along with a description of his long-term project to record for posterity the tile designs of London's original Yerkes Underground stations.
Scans of New York Subway maps can be found at subway.com.ru, and at www.nycsubway.org. There are Berlin maps at www.berliner-verkehr.de and at www.berliner-untergrundbahn.de, and a few Paris scans at www.sprague-thomson.com. The Moscow Metro is another network that deserves a book on its maps. These are good web pages: http://www.metro.ru/map/preview/ and http://metro.molot.ru/hist_map.shtml.
For histories, photographs, and links for just about every urban rail network in the world, try www.urbanrail.net. Then, for the lighter side of travel by the London Underground, try Annie Mole at www.goingunderground.net. Her blog at london-underground.blogspot.com often mentions the latest developments of the London Underground map, likewise Diamond Geezer.