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Subway Maps For Cities Without Subways, Dreamed Up By An 8th Grader

Want to hop on a train in Austin or New Orleans? Take the orange line–and live inside Ivan Specht’s aspirational creations. Or at the very least you can buy a T-shirt.

Ivan Specht started out making subway maps for his Dad. His first, covering Austin, Texas, was a Father’s Day gift. It went from there. He set up a website, called Metro-Ology, started printing posters and T-shirts, and developed 10 more maps for other cities such as San Antonio and New Orleans.

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They’re all completely fictitious.

“Ever since I was about five, I have been fascinated by mass transit systems–especially that of New York City, which is where I now live,” Specht says. “[My Dad] really liked the gift. So much so he suggested I turn it into a summer project and business, which is exactly what I have done.”

Specht is in the eighth grade.


The Austin design is typical. There are eight lines, colored from Red to Teal, and the service goes everywhere you might want to go. The network is as extensive as the New York system–a stop every few blocks or so–and the design takes after Harry Beck’s elegant London Underground map.

Specht starts by using Google Map Maker. “Usually, I try to concentrate the lines in the city centers. I then re-draw the map in Photoshop, using 45-degree angles, which I think make the maps look much cleaner and more graphically pleasing. Lastly, I add a legend, as well as reference points like highways and rivers,” Specht writes, in an email.

Denser cities like Austin are easier to draw than sprawling metropolises like San Antonio, he adds. “I found the most challenging one to be San Antonio, mainly because the city itself is very large and spread out. I had to find just the right number of lines to include, so that the suburbs would not be underserved and the map would become too cluttered.”

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Maybe the maps will inspire cities to dream of what’s possible. Specht’s on hand if San Antonio wants to talk, though he does have some homework to do.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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