Better Than Beck? Decluttered Tube Map Wins Fans (And Haters)

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By M@
Better Than Beck? Decluttered Tube Map Wins Fans (And Haters)
Click/tap for larger size.

Someone's taken on Harry Beck, and may just be winning.

This new, unofficial version of the tube map has been doing the rounds online. It has drawn both praise and ire. But mostly praise.

Unlike TfL's tube map, based on the design principles of Harry Beck in 1931, this one allows for sweeping curves. The central zone — the bit most tourists will be interested in — is given greater prominence and larger fonts than outer-zone stations.

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These design choices give more flexibility in the spacing. The result looks less cluttered, and even finds room for fare zones and walkable interchanges.

"No thanks," say a couple of people on the Londonist Roundel Ramblings Facebook group. "Snowflake designer rubbish," adds one joyless grumpian on the Standard's comment box. But these views seem to be in a minority.

"That's superb."
"Very pleasing."
"Love it!"

We love it too. Just look at the Overground (or 'Ovalground', as it would surely be known), curving round the centre with a newfound confidence. Even the Thames has an impish wiggle to please the eye.

The new map is the work of Luke Carvill, who has clearly spent many hours honing his design. As he admits to the Standard, it's still a work in progress. Future iterations will strike a better balance between clarity and geography, and include accessibility symbols.

A mock-up of the map in a carriage.

Not everything is perfect. Stations like Farringdon and Liverpool Street now look more complex than on the TfL map. This is in unavoidable result of including the Elizabeth line, which will merge together Farringdon + Barbican, and Moorgate + Liverpool Street — a challenge for any map.

Another key design decision sees the Overground and DLR routes split into separate lines. It's a strategy that will have both fans and detractors. One of the downsides is that this increases the number of colours on the map, some of which are a bit weak and difficult to follow.

A mock-up of the map on a platform

Luke's effort is still very impressive, and deserves serious consideration. He's by no means the first person to attempt to improve on the Beck map, though. Max Roberts immediately springs to mind. He's spent years honing his own alternative designs. Meanwhile, City Metric went all iconoclast over this map by Jug Cerović, praising it as "so much better than the real thing that it's almost embarrassing".

Read more about Luke Carvill's map, and order prints here.

Last Updated 15 March 2019