diamond geezer

 Saturday, January 08, 2022

A new tube map has just been published, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

The new map is needed because a large chunk of the Northern line is closing next Saturday until the middle of May and no trains will be running between Moorgate and Kennington. The designers have chosen to colour the closed part of the line using a dashed black and yellow line, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

The colours they've used make the closure look like a cross between the Circle and Northern lines, which isn't ideal when those two lines already cross at Monument. The yellow is really quite eyecatching, indeed arguably more eyecatching than the black sections of the Northern line which are remaining open. For some reason they've chosen to represent the line closure not by removing it but by making it more prominent, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

Leaving the line in place makes it harder to see that Northern line trains now terminate at Moorgate and that there are no helpful ways to continue your journey south from there. It also necessitates a surplus connector blob at Bank which technically doesn't need to be there. And because the short section between Elephant & Castle and Kennington is coloured black, not black and yellow, it suggests that trains might still be running between these two stations when obviously they're not, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

Details of the closure have been written in a teensy tiny yellow box squished in alongside Borough station. Admittedly I'm showing you the poster version of the map and they're enormous, but this is also the pdf version on the TfL website and you have to magnify that up a lot before you can read it. No box appears on the folded paper version of the map where the only explanation of the closure is given in the key on the back page. But it's written in a much smaller font than the rest of the key as if the designers either assumed you had perfect eyesight or decided you didn't need to read it, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

The only station that won't be served by other services is Borough so Borough station is closing for four months. The map tries to make this clear by crossing out the name of the station with a red line, but it's a thin horizontal line so quite hard to see, unlike in the old days when a red cross was used instead. Additionally a blue dagger directs you to closure information in a column alongside the map, and because the station's called Borough it comes first in the alphabetical list, but I wouldn't have done it like that.

Kennington is a bit of a mess, as it has been since the last tube map when it was split from one blob to two lengthily connected blobs. The split is particularly baffling on the latest map because the closed line means you won't be able to interchange here, but the designers have still chosen to include an extra interchange blob and greyed it out a bit. Now it looks like the Charing Cross branch joins the Morden branch at Oval whereas the lines actually join at Kennington, and it'd have looked a lot better if they'd just continued the line straight down, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

Another thing they've changed on the latest tube map is what the Battersea extension looks like.

On the last map it drooped at the end in an embarrassingly suggestive way, but this time the designers have applied some Viagra and now it sticks out horizontally. Unfortunately they've added an ugly kink to manoeuvre the line around the word 'Kennington', but that's because space is tight and the designers have to work to slavish rules about how lines are allowed to change direction, and I wouldn't have done it like that.

If you look more closely you'll see they've also moved Vauxhall closer to the river, and they've remembered to give Battersea Power Station a boat symbol this time, and they've switched the Northern line to go underneath the Victoria line rather than over it, but it's still not how I'd have done it.

I'd have done something like this...

...which is to make the Battersea extension a straight line and to make the Morden connection go vertically down. I'd also have made the dashed yellow a lot lighter and changed the dashed black to grey so the line closure didn't stand out quite much. Admittedly I'd have broken a rule by removing the Kennington blob on the closed stretch of line, indeed my solution is topologically suspect, but this transgression makes the rest of the map much clearer so I think it's valid to have done it like that.

Of course I'm only a rank amateur dicking around with MS Paint rather than an expert with the proper design package, plus I'm not beholden to professional rules decreed by specialists who know what they're doing. I could have chosen a different path through life and taken a design qualification and then attempted to get employed by TfL to fill the role where it actually is my say-so on how the tube map looks but that's not the career choice I chose. All I know is that if I had got that job and designed the latest tube map to my own rules you'd still all have sat there and found fault because, whatever I'd chosen to do, you wouldn't have done it like that.

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