I remember my first encounter with the London tube map. It was 1996 and I was a tourist. I stood there staring at it, the colored lines blurring into one as I tried to figure out where I was and where I was going.
After living in London for awhile, and getting better acquainted with the tube, I realized something other Londoners have long known. The tube map doesn’t actually correspond very well to the city’s geography. Accuracy is not its strong point.
Having lived in Manhattan, I was accustomed to a grid, and a compact – if extremely dense – urban experience. London felt like one big sprawl – and in my eyes, the tube map was part of a conspiracy to hide the ugly truth. That made me (inordinately) angry at the time and I mentally deducted a point from London in my own personal livability index.
A designer called Mark Noad has recently created his own version of the London tube map – which you can see here. And the Economist’s blog fills in some of the history of the tube map and why it looks the way it does.
I still don’t like London’s sprawl – but I do like this new map.