Wayfinding 

Signs and plaques in Kiev 

More photos from Kiev.

Listed building:

1

A memorial plaque:

2

A museum:

3

Hand-written posters:

4

Hardware store:

5

A hairdresser’s sign:

6

Another one:

7

Some kind of a special kind of house:

8

Don’t park here:

9

A cafe:

10

M & M:

11, 12

Nice curves:

13

A clothes and vinyl shop:

14

Nice layout:

15
   
Mar 18   Kiev   signs   wayfinding   world

Map and reality: diagrams 

In the previous two parts, we’ve figured out that the preferred distortion and layers depend on the map’s supposed use case.

With public transport maps, our goal is to help the customer get from point A to point B using the displayed transport network.

This is a map of Paris Metro of 1915:

Paris Metro, 1915

The city is shown in full detail. There are many layers. The metro lines, however, stand out because of the use of contrasting red thick lines.

Compare with the map of London underground railways of 1908:

London underground railways, 1908

The lines of different railways are denoted by different colours. The rest of the city — the roads, the parks and the river — makes one pale-gray layer.

But even this layer is removed by 1932:

London underground railways, 1932

The river Thames is the only non-railway object that remains on this map. And it is the only device that links the railways to the surface geography.

It is always interesting to explore a detailed map with lots of layers. But in this case, the pleasure of exploration is much less important than the customers’ ability to quickly pick out which train to take. The information richness is sacrificed to the comprehension speed.

But as we see, despite all the simplifications, the central part is still rather hard to read. In several places, arrows had to be used to clarify the correspondence of labels and stations.

The engineer Harry Beck has come up with a radical idea. He suggested redesigning the maps using the principles of electrical circuit drawings.

Electrical circuit

Such drawings prioritise the logical connection between the elements over their physical position. What if a railway map also displayed first and foremost the logical connection between the stations?

The Beck’s diagram replaced the map in 1933:

Beck’s Underground map, 1933

All lines segments were put to the angles of 45° and 90°. The distances between stations were equalised.

The modern diagram has twice as many lines and many more layers, but it inherits the Beck’s principles:

Modern London Underground map

Compare with a geographical map of the same lines:

Geographical London Underground map

The central part here is so dense that it had to be put in a cutaway at a bigger scale. And even so, everything turned out very small. Now we see that showing “true” geography is not universally useful. This geographical map is much harder to read. For the railways’ customers, the diagram excels.

If the distances between the stations are equal, the reader will grasp that it’s just a convention and won’t rely on it. If the lines are strictly at 45° or 90°, the reader will grasp that they do not represent the actual paths of the underground tracks and won’t rely on it either. But this doesn’t mean that you can get rid of any geographical reference.

In 2007 I made a rectilinear Moscow Metro map as an experiment:

While the principles of the above diagram are easy to figure out, there still is a problem: even if you live in Moscow, you will have a hard time finding your station.

Since any map is perceived in reference to the image of reality formed by the geographical maps, you have to respect that. If the reader knows roughly where a station is in the city, they should be able to find it on the diagram, too.

   
2016   information display   maps   transportation   wayfinding

Map and reality: layers 

In Map and reality: distortion I talked about how distortion is inevitable on a map and the question is what to distort given a particular task.

Now let’s talk about layers. What properties of land should a map display?

Physical and geographical world atlas (1964)
Physical and geographical world atlas (1964)

A physical map shows terrain: oceans, trenches, plains and mountains. On a political map, the land is divided into countries and states. A mineral resources map is covered with the symbols of mineral deposits and oilfields.

One can’t say that a physical map is “truer” than, say, a railroad atlas. The following map shows the history of Amsterdam’s development, and it’s also true. Red houses are the oldest, the blue ones are the newest:

A good cartographer will find ways to display lots of data on a map:

A map of Chelyabinsk region, Russia (1956)
A map of Chelyabinsk region, Russia (1956)

This map displays terrain, the region boundaries, motorways and railroads, settlements, ponds, mountain ridges, height markings, parallels and meridians.

By carefully choosing colour shades, widths and styles of lines, typefaces of text, the cartographer achieves clear separation of visual layers. Background colours that marks the heights are unsaturated to let one see the labels clearly. A particular hatching is used along the region boundaries to make them well distinguishable. The letters У Р А on the left separated by many other designations, are perceived as one label ЮЖНЫЙ УРАЛ (Southern Ural) on the full map thanks to a special typeface.

The more features are shown on a map, the more interesting it is to explore it.

However, there are circumstances that do not suggest an unhurried examination by a curious reader. Sometimes a map should just answer a narrow set of practical questions.

A pedestrian map shows the main landmarks, sidewalks, bike lanes, subway stations, toilets and Wi-Fi zones:

A nautical chart displays water depths, navigational hazards, important routes, harbours and the details of the coastline:

A nautical chart

The depths are marked with numbers — while the shades of blue as used on physical maps are more illustrative, a sailor wants the actual values. The dry land gets very little attention.

The choice of the layers and the way to separate them, as well as the choice of appropriate distortion, depends on the map’s goal and supposed use.

Continued in Map and reality: diagrams.

   
2016   information display   maps   transportation   wayfinding

Map and reality: distortion 

Often, transport diagrams do not accurately represent reality. But is this “lying” even acceptable? And if yes, to what degree?

Schematic depiction of the land has been done since rock drawings. By any contemporary measure these “maps” are ridiculously inaccurate. But they include enough detail for orientation.

This is an ancient road map of Roman Empire (created between −1 and 5 centuries; implemented in parchment in the 13th):

Ancient road map of Roman Empire

Here is Rome:

Rome on a map of Roman Empire

We are used to a very different appearance of these territories on a map. It’s quite hard to figure out what’s going on here. However, for a man who haven’t seen other maps, there is no reason to think that something is wrong: the roads actually connect the places.

On Ptolemy’s map of the world (2nd century; reproduced by the engraver Johan Schnitzer in the 15th century) the outline of Europe gets somewhat familiar:

Ptolemy’s map of the world

On Mercator’s map (16th century) it looks the way we are used to:

Transit maps and distortion

And here’s the whole world in Mercator projection:

Transit maps and distortion

Greenland looks bigger than Africa. The area of Antarctica’s looks comparable to everything else combined. But the red circles actually denote the same physical area, which gives you an idea of how distorted the map is.

This is a modern Google Map:

A Google Map of Europe

After a man had been to space, it seems, there are no more uncertainties about the shapes of land and see. But can we say this map is actually precise?

The map is flat and Earth is “round”, so a precise map just can’t exist. Futhermore, let’s look from a distance:

A Google Map

This is Mercator projection!

Mercator projection is one the most important map projections. Its main quality is that it preserves the angles. In each point the horizontal and vertical scales of the map are the same. That’s why when moving from the equator to the poles, the map is artificially stretched vertically the same way it naturally gets stretched horizontally.

Google engineer explains:

The first launch of Maps actually did not use Mercator, and streets in high latitude places like Stockholm did not meet at right angles on the map the way they do in reality. While [Mercator] distorts a “zoomed-out view” of the map, it allows close-ups (street level) to appear more like reality. The majority of our users are looking down at the street level for businesses, directions, etc… so we’re sticking with this projection for now.

Turns out, angles are far more important for navigation than the fair relative representation of land area.

The equidistant projection doesn’t distort area as much, but does distort the shape significantly:

Equidistant projection

The map projections are actually classified by the types of distortions the make. Depending on task at hand, the lengths, angles, areas or shapes can be sacrificed.

When I was designing a map of UZP plant dealerships in Russia, I even split the country in two halves. The Eastern part was displayed at twice smaller scale. This has let me show the much more inhabited Western part in larger detail (I didn’t know then that using such colours was not a good idea):

Map of UZP plant dealerships in Russia

A map from Herbert Bayer’s “The World Geo-Graphical Atlas” the Earth is cut in pieces in order to preserve the shape of the mainlands. For a map that shows the world’s population the fair display of the oceans and Antarctica is not that important:

World population map from Herbert Bayer’s “The World Geo-Graphical Atlas”

To some degree, any map is a lie.

Continued in Map and reality: layers.

   
2016   transportation   wayfinding

London Underground voice announcements: update 2 

Remember my old post with London Underground voice announcements? I’ve found many more recordings in my collection, including the announcements on the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines. So here is another update.

Some of these were sent to me by Pavel Shadrin. Thank you!

Car line diagrams source: Transport for London


Bakerloo line

Bakerloo line
   

Only one regular announcement:

And one overlapped with a service announcement:

And a service update on Baker Street:


Central line

Central line
   

Lancaster Gate — Marble Arch (towards Epping):

Liverpool Street — Bank (towards Ealing Broadway):


Circle line

Circle line
   

Tower Hill — Liverpool Street:

Operator announcement at Aldgate:


District line

District line
   


Jubilee line

Jubilee line
   

Operator announcement at Canary Wharf:

Canary Wharf — North Greenwich:


Northern line

Northern line
   

Moorgate — Euston (towards High Barnet via Bank):

Notice how the Hammersmith & City line is called just “ Hammersmith” line in these announcements.

Goodge Street:


Piccadilly line

Piccadilly line
   

Osterley towards Heathrow:


Victoria line

Victoria line
   

Highbury & Islington — Green Park on a weekend where many services were suspended:

Notice, that the suspended Northern line was not even listed in the “change” section.

Here the Northern Line announcement is shortened. I thought it was because the whole announcement was getting too long, but hold on.

Here, the Northern line announcement is shortened again, but the overall announcement is not nearly as long. So I have no clue.

There is no Norther line on Oxford Circus, but it’s mentioned nevertheless, presumably due to its importance (the Hammersmith & City was mentioned only at King’s Cross).

An operator announcement at Euston:


Other announcements

This announcement on Highbury & Islington turned out to be very useful for my own journey planning:

On a station of the Bakerloo or District line:

Train operator announcements:



I have updated the original post with the new recordings, make sure to check it out for my whole collection.

That original post started with this text (no longer does):

I have recently returned from London where I had recorded a number of voice announcements on the Underground. Here I’m sharing this small collection for those interested. Sound quality may vary.

Check out the train operator announcements on the Circle line; the Victoria line announcements for a red signal, doors opening on a right-hand side, final destination; the London Overground announcements.

By the way, still missing is Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Waterloo & City lines and DLR. If you have any recording in your collection or would like to make some, do not hesitate to share them with me. Thank you!

   
2016   London Underground   voice announcements   wayfinding

One-legged women and toilets 

The eternal mystery of signage design is that women on the toilet signs often have just one leg. They are all over the world:

   
2014   wayfinding   world

Left and right 

One of the most used wayfinding method is a phone call. A person calls their friend and gets some voice instructions on how to get somewhere. For this to work, the person should know the left from the right.

Some people have a hard time figuring this out. Here is a sign to help them:

   
2014   design   wayfinding

London Underground voice announcements: update 

Following my original post with London Underground voice announcements, reader Yaroslav Eremenko and another reader who preferred anonymity have sent me several other recordings. Now I have announcements from the Northern line, which I did not have before.

A recording of a train operator explaining a delay with a red signal, the quality is very poor:

Central line

   

   

District line

   

   

Northern line

   

   

First, trains to Edgware:

Euston, both branches:

More Bank branch to Morden. This one is at King’s Cross, the beginning is omitted:

It is notable that on the Northern line, they say “this train terminates at S” instead of “this is a L line service / train to S”. I also like the expression “This train terminates at Morden via Bank” as a shorthand for “This is a Bank branch train and it terminates at Morden”.

Piccadilly line

   

   

Victoria line

   

   

National Rail

I have updated the original post with the new recordings, make sure to check it out for my whole collection.

By the way, still no Bakerloo, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Waterloo & City lines and DLR. If you have any recording in your collection or would like to make some, do not hesitate to share them with me. Thank you!

   
2014   London Underground   voice announcements   wayfinding

London Underground voice announcements 

Here is my collection of the London Underground voice announcements. This post has been significantly updated twice (in March 2014 and in May 2016). I still don’t have any announcements from the Metropolitan and Waterloo & City lines, and the DLR.

Car line diagrams source: Transport for London


The “Mind the Gap” announcement

First of all, the famous “Mind the Gap” announcement:


Bakerloo line

Bakerloo line
   

Only one regular announcement:

And one overlapped with a service announcement:

And a service update on Baker Street:


Central line

Central line
   

Lancaster Gate — Marble Arch (towards Epping):

Marble Arch — Bond Street (towards West Ruislip):

Just in case you would like to imagine yourself travelling the whole way between the two stations, here is a full recording of that:

Liverpool Street — Bank (towards Ealing Broadway):

Greenford — Norholt:


Circle line

Circle line
   

Tower Hill — Liverpool Street:

Farringdon:

Baker Street:

Train operator announcement about short delay at Baker Street:

Train operator announcement at Aldgate:


District line

District line
   

Paddington:

Bayswater:

Chiswick Park:

Turnham Green:

   

Sloane Square:


Hammersmith & City line

Hammersmith & City line
   

Great Portland Street, Euston Square:


Jubilee line

   

Operator announcement at Canary Wharf:

Canary Wharf — North Greenwich:


Northern line

Northern line
   

Moorgate — Euston (towards High Barnet via Bank):

The Hammersmith & City line is called just “Hammersmith” line in these announcements.

Euston (towards Morden via Bank):

Euston — Camden Town (towards Edgware via Charing Cross):

Goodge Street (towards Kennington):

King’s Cross St. Pancras — Moorgate (towards Morden via Bank):

It is notable that on the Jubilee and Northern lines, they say “this train terminates at S” instead of “this is a L line service / train to S”. I also like the Northern-line expression “This train terminates at Morden via Bank” as a shorthand for “This is a Bank branch train, and it terminates at Morden”.


Piccadilly line

Piccadilly line
   

Covent Garden — Green Park (towards Rayners Lane, Uxbridge):

Barons Court — Hammersmith (towards Uxbridge)

Osterley towards Heathrow, including announcements for the customers who took the wrong train to Heathrow:


Victoria line

Victoria line
   

Red signal:

Victoria — King’s Cross St. Pancras (towards Seven Sisters, Walthamstow Central, including announcement of suspended lines):

Highbury & Islington — Brixton (including announcements on a weekend when many services were suspended):

Notice, that the suspended Northern line was not even listed in the “change” section.

Here the Northern Line announcement is shortened. I thought it was because the whole announcement was getting too long, but hold on.

Here, the Northern line announcement is shortened again, but the overall announcement is not nearly as long. So I have no clue.

There is no Northern line on Oxford Circus, but it’s mentioned nevertheless, presumably due to its importance (the Hammersmith & City was mentioned only at King’s Cross).

An operator announcement at Euston:


London Overground

London Overground
   

West Brompton:

Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street:

Here are some platform announcements at Queen’s Park:


National Rail


Other announcements

This announcement on Highbury & Islington turned out to be very useful for my own journey planning:

A recording of a train operator explaining a delay with a red signal, the quality is very poor:

More train operator announcements:

On a station of the Bakerloo or District line:



Do you have any interesting London Underground announcements recorded? Please send them to me at ilyabirman@ilyabirman.net.

This post has been updated on March 17th, 2014 with recordings sent by Yaroslav Eremenko (all the Northern line and some others) and another reader who preferred anonymity

   
2013   London Underground   voice announcements   wayfinding