london subway map
The London underground (subway) map has always been praised as a masterpiece of graphic design. I used it myself many times in London and it did successfully instruct me how to get to where I need to be. It is not only pretty and colourful in a good way, it has also amazingly simplified a very complicated London’s underground system into a clear map that can be understood by any person with a reasonable working brain size.
There are many little tricks that help make this map so easy to work with. First, the map only shows you how you can use the tubes (underground) to get to your destination, it really doesn’t tell you the actual distance or real direction your destination is. It makes sense since you are using the tubes and not driving or walking. Second, every line is laid out at flat or at a 45 degree angle, and always at a 45 degree angle with a smooth transition between any two intersecting lines. Strangely, it does help people read the map better. I guess the normal brains still don’t believe a train can do a 90 degree turn yet. Third, the map uses this simple dot to tell you where is a station that you can get off or change to a different line. And if there two dots at the same station connected with a line (like a dog bone) that means you have a do a little walking to change line.
What about the subway map in Hong Kong? Darwin claimed that evolution happened to animals. I guess it happened to “things” too. While London subway started in the mid 19th century and the Hong Kong started in late 20th century, people may assume the subway map in Hong Kong would have well evolved into perfection. It is indeed very unfair to make such an assumption. The Chinese were still smoking opium 100 years ago and the British dumped Hong Kong in 1997. The Hong Kong subway so called MTR was returned to the hands of the ex-opium smokers and no wonder the subway map now ends up looking disastrous.
Alright, let’s take a look and fairly examine what crime has been done against good design in Hong Kong, the number 1-asian-world-class city. The first image shown on this blog are parts of the real thing that you will see when you are standing in the MTR. Well, this map is a total chaos for a first timer. First when there are 2 dots placed right next to each other, do the dots actually refer to the same station? Or are there 2 real stations for the same destination but each for a different line physically placed next to each other? Actually there is only 1 station with multiple floors “most of the time” where there are 2 dots.
Second, while some lines go side by side, and some are only 4 mm apart. So what’s the deal? Well silly foreigners, the 4 mm actually refers to a harbour about 5000 feet wide. So don’t even think you can get off one station on one side of the 4 mm and walk to the other side. The old MTR map did have some kind of relationship regarding distance and relative locations of where the stations were. But after the MTR system evolved into a much bigger system, they can’t handle the new design of the map and the map just fell apart.
Third, what is the difference between a short skinny black line and long skinny dash black line? Since I have been there, I can tell you the line means you can walk from one station to another. But why one is dashed and one is not? I guess because the dash black line looks better than a un-dash black line when it is kind of long, so why not?
Fourth, why are some line are cut off? Well, they are cut off because there is not enough wall space, LOL. Where do they go? Well, you will find out when you get there. Don’t expect to find a complete map on the train. If you don’t know where it takes you, you probably don’t live there and shouldn’t go there. Just go where the shoppings are! Other than these chaoses, I am not going to give a critique regarding the aesthetic of the map, I bet you know it yourself.
all photos from http://www.google.com