Friday, April 27, 2007

Helpful distortion at NYC & London subway maps

Using distortion to clarify information ...

"Eddie Jabbour, graphic designer for Kick Design, is obsessed with replacing the confusing NYC subway map (below: originals on left and Kick maps on right — click for larger versions).

The logic behind the changes
“Can He Get There From Here?” profiles Jabbour’s quest. Here he explains the reasoning for his changes:

Mr. Jabbour pinned two maps to the wall, then pointed to the different renderings of the Atlantic Avenue terminal in Brooklyn, which he says is the most difficult station to represent because so many subway lines converge there. In Mr. Jabbour’s map, the subway lines run parallel to one another, making the map easier to read, if slightly inaccurate. Each line is marked with a circle bearing the route’s letter or number, instead of the oblong station markers used on the current map.

There are other differences. Unlike the official map, Mr. Jabbour’s map does not have a single line representing all the trains in a “cluster” route, like the 1, 2 and 3 trains in Manhattan. He used the same type font throughout, and words travel left to right, rather than diagonally, as on much of the official map. The lines bend only in 45- and 90-degree angles, to create a gridlike pattern.

In the eyes of Mr. Jabbour, the New York system is too complicated to layer on information like commuter rail and bus routes, as the current map does. He would like to see a map that is singularly devoted to the subway.

Distortion vs. accuracy
Jabbour’s map looks like a winner. (Thankfully, the navigation on it is a lot better than the messy Flash interface at Kick Design’s main site). He wisely recognizes that usability is more important than geographic accuracy here. Subway map readers want to know how to get from A to B a lot more than they want to know the exact curve of the tracks along the way. Sometimes truth is less important than knowledge.

It’s also interesting to see how he increases the number of lines on the map yet decreases the overall noise created. That change means riders can put their finger on a line and trace it all the way to their destination. That’s not always an easy task on the current map (multiple trains run along a single line until veering off)."    (Continued via 37signals)    [Usability Resources]

Brooklyn Subway Line Comparison - Usability, User Interface Design

Brooklyn Subway Line Comparison


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