Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Harry Beck, Map Man of the London Tube

Map A: Geographic
Map B: Connective
The design of the London Tube map is brilliant in its simplicity. It does not show the stations’ geographic relations above ground but rather their connective relations below ground. The approaches to map design could be characterized as spaghetti (Map A) vs loosely gridded (Map B).

Back Story
Eduardo: Harry Beck, who designed the original London Tube map was called Map Man in a BBC2 documentary.

Max: He is credited as its chief architect?

Eduardo: He wasn’t an architect, he worked as a draftsman for London Transport and suggested the original schematic diagram in 1931.

Max: And the public loved it.

Eduardo: They did but the publicity office at London Transport never actually commissioned Beck’s map and only accepted it as his voluntary experiment.

Max: Another uncredited originator?

Eduardo: By all accounts he only received five or ten pounds but they eventually did put his name on it. And there are plaques at Finchley Central Station and outside the house he lived in commemorating  him.

Max: So he eventually felt vindicated?

Eduardo: He defended the aesthetics of his vision. The verticals, the diagonals, the even distances between stations. And he didn’t take kindly to modifications to the design.

Max: Some designers can be protective and proprietorial about their visions.

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