In 1931, Harry Beck designed the London “Tube Map” in what would become a highly influential, topology-forward perspective. By largely ignoring the scale of geography above, Beck built an elegant, conceivable map of the London Underground. And it’s worked pretty well for London. Since the 1930s, Beck’s map has been expanded but never really altered.
But while effective for spotting one’s transfer, it’s a lie of scale that’s wholly unrelated to the world above. The Tube Map disregards one of a map’s most important components: distance.
Metrography is a map by designers Benedikt Groß and Bertrand Clerc that pokes fun at Beck’s vision and visualizes the implications. It maps and scales London to the distorted reality of the Tube Map; it shows London through the same abstract lens as its own transportation system.
“[Beck’s map] shapes suddenly the mental image of thousand of people,” Groß writes us. “Metrography tries to explore this mental glitch and manifest this intangible imaginary world to a new map.”
To create Metrography, the design duo began with River Thames and the Tube stations themselves as reference points (as both are part of the real world and the Tube Map), while “everything in between was interpolated according to the relations of the OpenStreetMap database.” The team took a scientific approach to creating what’s ultimately silliness, creating what might be called a real-world parody.
Groß admits that Metrography isn’t a map “for everyday use,” but he does see some practical implications in reassessing Beck’s. “It could be interesting to re-balance the abstraction of Beck’s map more focused on travel time or distances, etc.,” writes Groß, “maybe even in real time (we all now have smartphones) according to the service of the Tube network.”
A real-time scaling of city transit maps? A UI that combines the practicality of Beck’s vision with the accuracy of, you know, actual, real life? It certainly sounds promising to us.
[Hat tip: It’s Nice That]