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I think most of the appeal can be traced to two factors: Simple geometry and its clear ability to represent networks.

The style is very similar to the diagrams typically used in Graph Theory, which seem to be used the for the same reasons.

Nikko P

Jarrett, I wanted to know what you thought of this.


Danny Howard

Living as I now do in a metropolitan region where the transportation backbone is a highway system instead of rapid transit, I applied the London Tube Map style to our local infrastructure:


More silly than useful, but I hear that a carpool group at Google used it as a reference. :D


Eric O

What is so evocative to me about the metro map is that it represents a linear, connecting order in a more varied and open landscape that always presents a greater variety of options. The metaphor evokes the city. We experience "stations" as the gates to places we know are related to a larger urban landscape. It is a landscape that has a granular and dynamic orders. The "lines" connect these, so every transit line is also a conceptual frame to understand the city. As a conceptual connector, what is nice about the Metro map is that it is a metaphor with "give" - not tightly deliminiting relationships (so I call it "evocative"). It is informative about spatial relationships (or, metaphorically, semantic relationships) between destinations, but you always know that those destinations are places in their own right, so it is a "loose" metaphor.

The Mexico City Metro map, which represents each station with its own icon, is like a totem of the life of the city when you look at it. It has been implanted in my mind since my childhood as a way to understand all metro maps, to such an extent that I actually had to realize at one point in time in my life that most Metro maps do not represent stations as icons. The experience of the Mexico City Metro made me unconsciously conceive of the places of the city as having their own "sign". Even to this day, I sometime imagine the stops on the Boston T Map as "icons", even though no map that I know of represents the T with station icons. (I have about 7 years of experience with the Boston area T...In that whole time, I never realized the maps lacked individual station icons).

When the icons appear together in the map in the Mexico City Metro map, you see the signs of a variegated culture. You see the city and the humans in it. Of course, it is no accident that for some Mexicans it has come to serve as a powerful metaphor for conceptions of personal/creative journeys and life experience itself, see:


Clark in Vancouver

Someone in Toronto made a map of the bikeway network in subway map style.


Speaking of icons, I've noticed this in Seattle. The line serves the airport and some ethnic neighborhoods, so there are users who might not know English that well.

Nate Wessel

I went with regular angles and brightly coloured lines in my map of Cincinnati's buses purposefully to differentiate it from the typical bus map with lines that explicitly follow the topography and curves in the road.


Metro map styles evoke a great transit system, that Cincinnati arguably doesn't have. I wanted to communicate that the transit system is *cough* great *ahem*, so I went with a more metro style to evoke that feeling :)

Todd Reid

A fascinating artistic twist on the subway map can be found at www.mta.me, a musical instrument (via html5) based on real-time mta data of the NYC subway.

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the firm

Jarrett is now in ...

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