Friday, March 8, 2013

80th Anniversary for Iconic London Tube Map

Tube Map took inspiration from electrical diagrams
Hunter Communications recommended reading from:
Seattle Times

Link to article:
London Tube and its Iconic Map Celebrate Their Age

Originally rejected for its radical stylization of the angles and distances in the London Underground, the 1933 Tube map reduced a serpentine rairoad system to a simple layout of straight lines, 45-degree and right angles.  Once its streamlined simplification was quickly and easily accepted by commuters and travelers, it became an icon and inspiration for transit maps in other world capitals, like Sydney and New York.

Excerpt: "'It’s a design icon,' said Anna Renton, senior curator at the London Transport Museum. 'You shouldn’t use that word too often, but it really is.'

It’s been copied by other cities and riffed on by artists and satirists. It’s omnipresent in souvenir shops, plastered on mugs, underwear, mouse pads and tote bags, on sale next to the “Mind the Gap” T-shirts.

Perhaps most impressively, the image is stamped onto Londoners’ brains. If the Tube is how people get around London, the Tube map is how many conceive of this sprawling city, their sense of its geography shaped — and sometimes warped — by the drawing’s streamlined, reductive layout.

Tell a Londoner the name of a neighborhood on the other side of town, and you may get a blank stare; mention the closest Underground line and station, and the mental GPS kicks in.

All credit goes to a problem-solving electrical draftsman named Harry Beck, who came up with the design in his spare time in 1931.

At that point, more geographically accurate maps of the Tube were already in use. But the expansion of the network into the suburbs made such depictions unwieldy, and their curving, intersecting lines had come to resemble a nest of snakes, a plate of spaghetti or London having a very bad hair day. Inspired, some say, by electric-circuit diagrams, Beck straightened out the lines, drew only 45- and 90-degree angles, and truncated distances between outlying stations."

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