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Ingenious Infographic: U.S. Highways, Mapped Like A Subway System

February 10, 2012

Another infographic example:

“Chucking geographic accuracy for a Tube-style schematic makes much more sense for plotting routes on the U.S. interstate system. Like the London Underground, the interstate highways are all about connecting nodes and skipping the stuff in between. On the Tube, there’s no scenery between stations; as far as a rider is concerned, it’s like riding an elevator. So who cares if the clean, orthogonal lines connecting stations don’t completely correspond to geographic reality as long as the endpoints do?”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2012 3:33 pm

    The infographic listed above shows US highway system like that of London subway system is brilliant in its own way. I never knew that the London subway system “diagram” was void of geographic accuracy because the example of Tokyo subway + railroad systems are map, geographically accurate. I was not aware that the schematic of any subway system is allowed be created without geographic accuracy . Even if this London subway system diagram wasn’t a map it sill serves its purpose.

    Infographic should not be devoid of relativity but to bring exact accuracy in its graphic is not be the priority. Graphics should represent relative relationship to other nodes and it should provide information nodes possess in relation to other nodes. I would like to use relative sizing to show the strength of each nodes on my infographic but it is difficult to do in a meaningful way. Looking at other examples of infographics help me but I have to finalize my design quickly.

    on other note:

    I read about unpleasant exchange of twitters between two, and well I understand the fury of the creator but if people didn’t get it they didn’t get it. His diagram still is useful. Getting people to understand that was a diagram not a map is so important he failed miserably. Instead of taking anger on one person who voiced it maybe he should think about why his diagram failed to communicate with lay people like us. He better look into why it failed more than being furious about people not getting it.

  2. February 13, 2012 6:59 am

    The Tokyo example, then, provides geographic context to the subway locations, while most systems just post a you-are-here TO there. Most people just want to “get there”, but it’s helpful for new people having that physical context of where the subway station is to other locations. I remember feeling that need when I was in Chicago last spring riding their system.

  3. February 14, 2012 8:44 am

    The London and for that matter, the NY maps are incredible to me. There’s very little context for where you are at any given point. Although I suppose that in cities of that size you never fully understand where you are anyway, so at least the maps give you what you need in terms of point-A to point-B travel.

    I just went to D.C. for the first time a couple of weeks ago and we were riding the Metro into town from Alexandria. I downloaded a Metro map onto my ipod and it was roughly overlayed onto the geography of the city which was nice in terms of watching the route to see how many more stops we had for a given destination. However, even with the context of the major landmarks and the Potomac the actual physical and walking distance between stops is hugely misrepresented on the map.

    I suppose it comes down to a fundamental design problem really. What compromises do you have to make between the limitations of your design medium (in this case a physical map that can be easily read) and the scope of the information you need to portray. I think if you look at it this way the London Underground or NYC Subway maps are triumphs of design.

    Every map distorts information in some way, it’s simply a limitation of trying to portray three dimensional space on a two dimensional medium. Consider the projections used for the world map. Those Mercator maps we all looked at in elementary school really gave us a twisted interpretation of the relative size of the northern hemisphere, however even the newer and more accurate projections still manage to distort. Man, I love maps!

    • February 15, 2012 6:15 pm

      Subway maps: most people just want to get from A to B, so context is not important, although as Atsuko points out Tokyo subway maps include context – may be a culture difference?

      Subway: chicago. When I was on the Chicago subway, I just wanted to get from where I was downtown to Wrigley Field. So I looked for what line got me there and if I had to make a train change somewhere.

      Subway: Paris. My first experience in a subway was the Metro in Paris. Because I knew no French, I found out the hard way how to navigate the system. The labels on the signs and maps identified Lines based on the END-destination. Once I figured that out I could be on the right side of the train station.

      Subway nonverbal: there’s loads of nonverbal going on in a train station and nonverbal may be the dominant language system. On the Paris Metro, everyone knew my group was American. This can be good and bad, depending on the time of day.

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