Lessons From the London Map: What Your Pocket Map Should Do

In an article published by The Atlantic's City Lab*, transportation maps in two subway cities--London and New York--showed the importance audience response to map design.


Starting with a historical survey of London's Tube map history, the article explained that Londoners love their simple lines that denote the various routes for their subway, even though they are not geographically accurate. In contrast, New Yorkers love the geographically accurate representation of the subway lines across NYC's grid, and shunned a previous design that matched the simplicity of London's Tube map. Overall, a map's design is shaped by commuters and a group's preference for one type over the other can really make or break a map's design concept.


So how can you make sure your transportation pocket map works for your city? Here's our design tips:


Try A/B Testing: A common test done by website designers to find the best layout for users, A/B testing of your map is a great a way to see which design works best. Print two versions of your map--one that is geographically accurate, and another that is more about simple lines. Ask people in your city to survey them, picking the one they can understand better.


When in doubt, keep the two. Maybe your city's residents love the geographically-accurate one, but tourists find it confusing to read, especially because they don't already know the lay of the land. Having the second design on-hand can help guide tourists when they seek help, even if it's not the widely-distributed copy.


No matter what, pay attention to the colors. Whether it's the color guide for the various routes, or even just the depiction of water for geographic reference, it's important to pick and choose colors that help delineate the routes from each other, and make for an aesthetically pleasing map.


If your takeaway from all this is a sense that maps are a lot more complicated than they look, their history sometimes can be! But at least you're not alone in designing your map. Contact us for help, advice, and ultimately printing your pocket map today!

*The Atlantic's City Lab


January 07th, 2016
by Mark Minoff

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