Hurrah, I have a new laptop. I can blog again. Let’s do a quick postmortem on the Sweet 16, shall we?
- New York v. Chicago: Not much of a preference here. I am okay with how this one turned out.
- Beijing v. Boston: Good choice. Boston’s map may be a stab at greatness that fell wildly short, but at least it’s not the unmitigated disaster that is the Beijing map. (Seriously, if that thing was retooled to look like the MTR map it would look so much better.)
- Sao Paulo v. Seoul: No no no no no no no a thousand times no. Nein. Nicht. Nyet. Wrong. Incorrect. For the same reasons as Boston v. Beijing, actually. Both maps may be unsalvageable, but the way the lines are routed in Sao Paulo’s map does offer a path forward for the potential redesigner. No such luck in Seoul’s big ole mess.
- Vancouver v. Santiago: What on earth is wrong with you people.
- London v. Stockholm: Y’all drive me to drink. We are not reviewing the tube map that Beck personally worked on, right? We are reviewing the tube map as it currently exists, and the tube map that currently exists is an unmitigated disaster.
- Berlin v. Hong Kong: I like the Berlin map more, but as someone who’s been to HK three times and who loves the MTR to little tiny bits I’d have been happy if HK won.
- Moscow v. Vienna: Moscow won. Yes. Good. Yes.
- Barcelona v. Paris: Like I said on Twitter, both maps are messy, but the Paris map is demonstrably better at being messy than the Barcelona map. Insert born-in-it-molded-by-it meme line here…which given Paris’ long history of geographical Metro maps wouldn’t be too far off, actually.
Now for what’s happening right now, today.
Elite Eight Green Line: London v. Berlin
As of this writing the voting is at 56/44 London, which with fifteen hours left to go indicates a pretty strong tilt in London’s favor. This is also the point at which anyone with taste (i.e. anyone whose bracket has Moscow going into the final) should develop the stomach knots.
Berlin’s map is self-evidently superior. David Edmondson outlined a whole slew of reasons why in a Twitter thread, and I cosign pretty much all of them. It’s cleaner. The icons are better integrated into the design. So are the fare zones (that there’s only three compared to London’s 9+ helps a lot). The S41/S42 loop gives the map some structure. I could go on. Basically the only non-nitpicky concern I have about the Berlin thing is how they handle showing lift/ramp access to specific modes, which is by color and therefore could be, you guessed it, rough for colorblind users.
London, meanwhile…whooboy. There’s a pretty good case to be made that its status as The First Map has actually prevented the map from changing as it needed to in order to include things like the Jubilee and Victoria lines, the DLR, the Overground, the trams, the Dangleway, the fare zones, accessibility information, and (gulp) Crossrail while still retaining the level of clarity that made the blasted thing famous to begin with. The thing that made the tube map iconic was not the ticks or the blobs or the font. It was Beck’s obsessive commitment to keeping the lines as straight as possible. It was how the Central line stayed ramrod-straight within what would become Zone 1. It was how the Circle line was for many years shaped like a perfect rectangle instead of a bottle. This is something TfL, in their slavish devotion to preserve the style of the map instead of the substance, seem to have forgotten, to their great detriment. You want to talk about legacy, in the context of this competition? The horrific Franken-diagram you see before you is the tube map’s actual legacy: a diagram perpetually stuck in the past with loads of extra crap stitched on, while maps elsewhere utilize what’s really important about this thing with stylish, impeccable results.
And this dumpster fire is wiping the floor with Berlin, 56 to 44. Good God.
And here’s why this match should give the howling fantods to anyone who wants to see a good map win: based on London’s performance today, there’s a nonzero chance that it’ll similarly pants Moscow or Paris—both objectively better maps in every way—in the semis. Nothing coming out of the Red or Blue lines are quite as good or as recognizable as those two, which means that if London makes the final it’s probably going to win it all. And this victory would not be on its own merits, but thanks to a particular historical accident way back in 1933 that might as well have made it The First. Thanks, Obama. Winner: Berlin
Some Good Alternate Maps
Two from Cerovic here today. His redesigns of the London and Berlin maps are together some of his best work, and a lot of that comes down to his treatment of their respective cities’ suburban and regional lines. The Berlin map’s pleasant pastel red, yellow, and blue are particularly inspired, separating the regional lines out while still keeping them low in the informational hierarchy. The British capital, meanwhile, has that incomprehensible tangle of suburban routes spilling out through South London, and Cerovic very, very wisely organizes them by terminal, the perfect balance between grouping them by train operator (too little information) and teasing out every individual service (too much). If you’re going to take a stab at redesigning the tube map and want to include the South London disaster area, this is how you do it.