The London Underground has many faults, but its map is not one of them. It is famously, beautifully, functional. It just works. I even have a print of Harry Beck’s 1933 design hanging in my hallway.
Paris has not benefitted from such a design, perhaps because its 300 odd stations across 40 square miles just don’t lend themselves to such a neat and intuitive layout, hence the confusing mess at the top of the page.
To get a better idea of how Konovalov’s map stacks up to the original (and to other interpretations), we consulted Max Roberts, a psychologist at the University of Essex who studies how the the design of transit maps affect their usefulness.
What stands out most about Konovalov’s interpretation is the circular parts of the design. Lines 2 and 6 (the blue and green lines) form a perfect ring around the metro’s center, as do two tram routes and the prospective Line 15. The rest of the lines are arranged so that they seem to branch off from a central point at different angles. Not only does the circular pattern help frame the map and focus the user’s attention, but “the circles on the map also delineate the city into segments,” says Konovalov.
“It sort of forces [the map] into a level of organization you’ve just never seen before,” says Roberts, who has used the same guiding principles in his own redesign of city transit maps. But circular maps aren’t perfect, he adds. The structure of Paris’s metro network, for example, is not actually a circle. By molding its transit map into that shape, a designer risks distorting the density of stations in different regions.
Konovalov also reimagines the map on a 30-degree grid. Most transit maps, including the official Paris Metro map, use a 45-degree grid, meaning that most lines run along horizontal, vertical, and diagonal axes. In Konovalov’s map, however, he’s rotated the axes so that many of the lines run diagonally. This, according to Konovalov, minimizes sharp visual turns. “The smaller the bend in the line, the easier it is to track with your eyes and to find the intersections with other lines,” he says.
“If the angles of the line in reality don’t match what you’re using for the map, you’re going to have to keep bending them to actually get them to go to the right places,” says Roberts. “So [Konovalov] is trying to get the design rules to match what the metro lines in Paris actually do.”
Read the story in full here, and see Konovalov’s map below.