Tag Archives: design

Cool but unfortunately incomplete San Francisco neighborhood map

San Francisco Neighborhoods from OrkpostersStrangeMaps linked to a site with a very cool map of San Francisco neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it’s missing Dogpatch, Lower Haight, Japantown, The Tenderloin, Cole Valley, Russian Hill, Alamo Square, NOPA, Panhandle, and Duboce Triangle, and, if you want to get specific, Polk Gulch, South Park, and Pierre Valley too. I know because I’m keeping track. I wonder if the other maps for sale at Orkposters are similarly lacking.

Seeing what isn’t there in simple maps of complex things

First, there’s Eddie Jabour’s Kick Map, an underground (literally) redesign of the New York City subway map, which has been rejected by the MTA. Too bad MTA doesn’t understand that the simplicity of Kick Map makes it vastly easier to read and use.

And then there’s Animals on the Underground, a modern-day version of the constellations which sees animals in the London Tube instead of the sky. People will see patterns everywhere.

And Driving Orientation: A World Map, shows that although most people in the world drive on the right, and many countries are following suit (only Namibia has bucked the trend by recently switching to the left), there are still many border crossings where you might need to make a quick mental adjustment after you get your passport stamped.

I guess there’s something to be said for standardization.

Seeing stars, redux

This is an updated version of my Seeing Stars post on more.theory.org back in August 2004.

A comment Jon made about the Moscow Metro maps prompted me to google about for some pictures. I found this page, a comprehensive archive of Moscow subway maps going back to 1935. Since I’m a graphic design junkie, I checked them out. And I noticed something interesting. When the orange and purple lines were completed in 1973 or 1974, the map suddenly changed from a seemingly random jumble of lines to a distinct star pattern.

Now, subway maps are almost always abstractions. In fact, things are better that way; the configuration of stations with respect to each other is the important detail; the actual distances between stations, and the curved or straight nature of the actual tracks, is prettty irrelevant. When a city map is overlaid with its subway map, the result is often unrecognizable.

But when the purple and orange lines were completed, they went from being angled to completely straight, and the crossing point of the orange and purple lines was moved above the blue line. These modifications made the map into a star within a circle pattern.

The star disappears in 1984 with the introduction of two new (grey and yellow) lines.

The star in the circle was an important soviet emblem. It seems most likely that the similarity was just the bright idea of some clever designer. I wonder how obvious it was to the people of Moscow, when the star maps came and went. And I wonder what subtle symbols are present in our own visual culture.

An example is the down-pointed triangles that can be seen in many of the graphics on the San Francisco MUNI buses and trains, which is historically a gay-rights symbol. Look for it next time you’re on public transit in the city. What would it mean to you if it vanished one day? (Update: Since originally writing this post in 2004, the triangles have become much less prominent on Muni’s website.)

What must the Muscovites have thought when the new maps, without stars, came out?

ps. this is the coolest of the Moscow subway maps (look for Line #9).