Our post about Mark Noad's attempt to improve the classic London Underground map (or is it a diagram?) got readers excited and enraged in equal measure. That didn't stop him from continuing to refine his creation, which adds additional geographic accuracy and other re-visualizations like transit times between stations and a stark view of which stations offer step-free access to the disabled. Oh, and there's an iPhone app now, too.
Of the interesting comments left on my post about Mark Noad's redesigned London Underground map, one of the most interesting was left by eminent typographer and designer Erik Spiekermann. In it, he stated what he called a "common misunderstanding" about Harry Beck's legendary wayfinding display: that it isn't a map at all, "it's a diagram. Not meant to show geographic relationships, but connections." Spiekermann criticized Noad for mixing the two concepts in his redesign, which attempted to combine Beck's clean lines with added geographic accuracy.
The London Underground map is right up there with the Mercator projection in the cartographic pantheon. Designer Harry Beck replaced assumptions of geographic accuracy with principles of electrical wiring diagrams to create an entirely new way of thinking about urban wayfinding. But that was nearly a century ago. According to research by NYU professor Zhan Gao, 30% of travelers choose the wrong route on the current London Tube map, which has twice as many transit lines and is just as likely to be squinted at on a smartphone as gazed at on a wall. Is it time for an update?