The London Tube map is a design classic - but could it soon be outliving its usefulness? Harry Beck's design is a classic that has served us well for over 80 years, being regularly updated to reflect changes and upgrades to London's complex network of stations - but the most recently-revamped version, which was issued last month, has received criticism for yet more increased levels of complexity.
The problem is almost a good problem to have: The reason the map is getting to complex is because London is getting big transport upgrades. The big change this time around is the addition of the Cheshunt, Enfield and Chingford lines that run into Liverpool Street adding yet more orange to the map as they join London Overground, and another extra line coming out of Liverpool Street in the form of "TfL Rail" to Shenfield. (This latter line is destined to become part of Crossrail in a few years, but TfL isn't going to fully rebrand the service for a few years).
A Fresh Take on the London Tube Map
So what to do? One solution could be to do something of a heresy and break the rules. CityMetric spotted this map by Wikipedia user "Same Boat", which eschews Beck's strict lines-and-angles approach for something a little more curvier, and a whole lot more readable. Notice how the Circle Line is now positioned at an angle, and where necessary, the lines no longer bend at a fixed 45 degrees.
The map also does a good job of clearing up the Overground mess. All of the orange on the official map is actually 7 different railway lines - and this map imagines splitting their branding back up into seven separate services (something that might be hard to swallow for TfL branding gurus).
Interestingly, the creator has opted to show future developments which aren't yet open too - including Crossrail and even the Battersea extension of the Northern Line (indeed, predicting a wholesale divorce between the two branches of the line to create a new "Edgware" line through the West End). Up in Watford, it features the Croxley Rail Link, which will join the Metropolitan Line up to Watford Junction station.
In short, it is brilliant - and much clearer. If we were TfL, we'd be thinking it might be time to say goodbye to Beck, and to commission this guy instead.