Tube Map

One of the best known and most influential pieces of twentieth century graphic design was the Tube Map, that is, a map of London Transport’s underground rail system:

What’s so iconic about this? Well, the great insight of its designer, Harry Beck, was that such a map did not need to be to scale or even correspond to precise geography – all that it needed to do was to show the relative locations of the different stations, like a schematic diagram of an electrical appliance. Here’s what an accurate map would look like (Wikipedia):

Here’s what it looked like until the 1930s when Beck’s map was adopted (Wikipedia):

In other words, there’s no need for any lines that don’t run horizontally, vertically, or on 45 degree angles. Designing a map on such a principle produces a clean, memorable and useful image, one that has inspired many other such maps (all images Wikipedia):



New York

And like Bayeux Tapestry, the Tube Map has inspired any number of parodies or “pastiches,” including:

• A map with place names as they were in the Middle Ages.

• The Daily Mail’s Moral Underground, featuring Lady Gaga and Nigella Lawson on the Media Scum Line

• A Shakespearean themed map, which “delineates the important personality types that recur from play to play and shows the intricate connections between the characters” (from the RSC website).

• Finally, a collection of such maps, including the Anagram Map or the What if the Germans had Won the War Map.