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Paris Metro Map – The Redesign

When I first visited Paris, it took me a while to get oriented and put together a route using the official map of the Paris metro. That’s all it took to spark the flame inside me to redraw it according to an entirely different set of principles. The goal was extremely ambitious, but why not try?

In this article, I will attempt to describe the principal solutions involved in the development of my own version of the Paris metro map. But for a moment, I’ll just jump ahead to the result:

Paris metro map (Constantine Konovalov)1
(Image: metromap.fr2) (View large version3)

I am unable to discuss the entire process that went into the creation of this new map, because it took me around two and a half years to complete, and an article of that length would bore even the most committed of readers. In this light, I will cover only the principal graphical solutions. At the end of the report, I have included a time-lapse video of the entire creation process.

For comparison, this is the current official map.

Paris metro map (official version)4
(Image: RATP5) (View large version6)

Indeed, its appearance is rather forbidding. There are numerous lines twisted about chaotically, and the eye lacks a clear anchor, because there is nothing characteristic or memorable to grasp onto. Naturally, if used frequently, maps become customary and familiar. However, for a city that has more tourists than local residents, this element of urban navigation has obvious shortcomings.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

A Circular Image Of The City Link

Where did the circle come from in my version if the original map has nothing of the sort? Is Paris circular all of a sudden?

The answer is yes, Paris actually is circular to a certain extent. Let us take the maps of Moscow, London and Berlin as examples and match them with the real geographies of the cities. It is clear that all of these maps share a certain distinctive feature.

The map of the Moscow metro includes two ring-shaped lines, one brown and one pink (the surface metro line). But when the tracks of these lines are superimposed on the geographic map (on the left), both lines are seen to be circular in only the most remote sense. As can obviously be discerned from the metro map, these lines are shown as rings only for simplicity’s sake.

Moscow11
(View large version12)

London’s map has a closed, bottle-shaped contour. This is not a circle, but it is still another memorable form that makes orienting oneself in the city easier. Even though, geographically speaking, the shape of the line is far more complex (as can be seen in the image to the left), it is nonetheless depicted in the shape of a bottle. Still, the line is locally known as the Circle.

London13
(View large version14)

In Berlin, lines S41 and S42 are known as the Ring, even though, from a geographic perspective, the lines do not resemble a perfect circle. Also, the Ring is not drawn as a circle on the map, but is instead shown as a symmetrical octagon. What is most important is that, thanks to its geometric simplicity, this shape can be easily recognized on the map and forms the central tariff zone A. This is a great and super-convenient detail, even among other shortcomings of the Berlin map.

Berlin15
(View large version16)

But what about Paris? Paris is similar to these cities in its construction — the city can be broken down into two circles. One circle includes metro lines 2 and 6. The second of the two tram routes has still yet to form a loop, but construction is in progress. Still, it is safe to nominally say that the second circle is in fact the administrative border of the city, which happens to correspond to the tram line. However, looking at the official map, we cannot see the same clear-cut contour we see in other cities. The fact is that these contours simply merge with the other numerous lines.

Paris17
(View large version18)

Also, when the geographic map is superimposed on the transit map, it is easy to see that on the official Paris metro map, lines 2 and 6 are considerably distorted and do not conform to the true geographic shape. If so, why not simplify these two lines and represent them as a recognizable shape, as in the cases of other cities?

geographic Paris metro map19
(View large version20)

The only difference between Paris and other cities is that the ring would be formed from two lines.

Before World War II, the metro ring was even divided into three lines. A portion of the present-day 6 (the lower portion of the ring) was a continuation of the 5 (the orange line in the image below). Plus, even back then, attempts were made to simplify the map using a regular circle, but they ended without much success. Ever since then, many designers have tried their hand at depicting a circular Paris.

Paris metro map 193621
An unofficial map dating back to 1936 (View large version22)

Delving deeper into history, you’d discover that both of these Paris rings corresponded to the contours along which defensive walls were built in the city: the Farmers-General Wall (shown in blue in the image below) and the Thiers Wall (red), which themselves formed closed loops around the city. These days, the walls no longer exist, having been replaced by boulevards. These boulevards were then used to build some of the first metro lines, and a tram recently started operating along the outer ring. One particularly characteristic detail is that the metro lines tracing the location of former city walls are all above ground, with the exception of small underground sections. This allows riders to easily associate the metro ring with the above-ground portion of the city. In other words, if circular metro lines were shown as nominal circles on the map, then finding one’s desired station would be easier because a ring is easy to spot against a background of other numerous lines.

Paris map23
(View large version24)

In 1992, RATP, the Parisian public transportation operator, replaced its logo with a circle and a silhouette of girl looking upwards. This symbol also represents the Seine flowing through Paris, which happens to be depicted as a circle.

Lately, this sign can be seen on every metro car, bus, ticket and transit map in Paris.

RATP logo25
(Image: RATP26) (View large version27)

Map Grid And Non-Geographic Depiction Link

The existence of two metro maps is appropriate for a city: one aligned with the city’s geography, and the other composed according to schematic representation of the lines. When a transit map is made on a city’s actual map, the lines correspond to real positions in the city, which is convenient to the extent that geographic precision is preserved. Such a map, however, has many disadvantages.

For example, here is the official map of the Paris metro integrated with a map of the city:

Paris metro map (official version)28
(Image: RATP29) (View large version30)

There is a lot of information to handle here, beyond just station names and maps of metro lines, overloading it to an unacceptable extent. The names of stations are tiny compared to the map as a whole and cannot be easily read; using a map like this on the run would be very difficult. Just imagine trying to puzzle out interchanges on this map if you were to find yourself in an unfamiliar city:

Paris metro map (official version)31
(View large version32)

This is why complex maps are usually simplified and drawn to be more readable. To simplify, geography is sacrificed, allowing the map to be built according to a set of rules designed for readability and easier plotting of routes from point A to point B.

These rules include line color, point size, station designations and the coordinate grid used to plot the lines. A grid with an angle increment of 45 degrees is typically used. This is sufficient for most transit maps. Still, when a map gets more complex and the number of lines increases, the lines start getting tangled with one another, creating extra curves and misleading sections with stacks of parallel lines in which it is easy to get lost.

Transit maps must connect station location points in the simplest way possible, and the coordinate grid should assist this process.

After studying the problematic spots on the official Paris metro map, I concluded that the 45-degree grid is not the best solution for Paris. I instead believe that if a 30-degree grid is employed, the extra curves and other tricky sections could be eliminated by virtue of a larger number of axes.

33
(View large version34)

When I first started working on the map, I imagined that, despite all of the advantages of the 30-degree grid, I would still be unable to create a stable graphical form for the overall map. The vertical sections of some lines still attract more attention than they are intended to.

35
(View large version36)

At some point, I understood that the reason why the shape is unstable is my use of a vertical axis. When the 30-degree grid is used, so many axes are created that its most vertical catches the eye more easily than the others when one is viewing the image as a whole. Humans have evolved to constantly look for patterns in everything. In this way, even adults can imagine that clouds take on the shape of animals. Two windows cut into a blank wall next to each other attract our attention, and pure imagination transforms them into the eyes of an unknown creature.

In this case, the vertical axis draws attention and is likened to a foreign object on the image. This is why I decided to get rid of all verticals, but continued to work with the 30-degree grid.

37
(View large version38)

So, through trial and error, I found myself using the 30-degree grid, but without any vertical lines.

39
(View large version40)

Initially, I had wanted to simplify the complex shapes and limit the number of curves compared to the official map. By adopting a 30-degree grid, I was able to reduce the number of line curves by 2.5 times. Difficult interchange nodes were disentangled, thus becoming more easily understood.

41
(View large version42)

Line Curvature Radius Link

Another requirement directly related to the coordinate grid is changing the radii of the line curvature. Many transit designers pay no attention to this detail, but it is very important to producing an attractive graphical image of transit lines. Let’s start with three angles, 90, 120 and 150 degrees:

43
(View large version44)

If we smoothed them out with the same curvature radius, these lines would not look so similar. The bend of the 90-degree angle would be too smooth (about one-quarter of the curve), while the 150-degree angle would be so sharp that little difference would be perceived in the angle without rounding.

45
(View large version46)

Let’s conduct a short experiment. Take a drinking straw and start bending it — first lightly, then all the way to an acute angle. Notice that when the bend is minor, the curvature radius is quite large, and when the angle is acute, the curvature radius shrinks. This observation is useful when building transit maps. The sharper the bend, the more noticeable it becomes, so the curvature radius should be smaller. If the curvature is insignificant, then there would be no point in sharply accentuating it, so the radius would increase in this case.

47
(View large version48)

Note the bends on this map:

49
(View large version50)

If a line follows its route and only bends 150 degrees, then the turn would be smoothed out by a streamlined curve. But if attention needs to be brought to a sharp turn (a 60-degree angle), then the curvature radius could be reduced, and the line bent more aggressively, catching the eye when the user is planning a route. Such curves are natural for the eye, because they approximate the physical curves encountered in a real environment.

(It is rather easy to guess the principle of radius change depending on the angle of the bend. I am fully confident that many readers can solve this simple geometric equation with alacrity.)

Colors Link

In the process of its composition, the new map adopted a layout quite dissimilar from the official version. Therefore, I decided to stylize it with colors that would be more familiar to Parisians.

51
(View large version52)

I also repainted the background to match the style of the official map, so that it would be better associated with Paris.

To a certain extent, I dislike this solution because the map loses its sharpness, due to the yellow background. On the other hand, it looks much closer to the official map that so many have become accustomed to — a rather clever perception trick.

Also, to make the map easier to understand, I reduced it to the major geographic principles of the Paris transit system, including the official colors of lines, fonts and graphical designations.

Icons Link

In tourism capitals, it is very important to direct visitors to where the main sights are located, using directions and maps.

The color brown is typically used to depict walking proximity to noteworthy sights. To create icons for Paris’ most famous sights, I used a square, regular grid after approximately calculating that, when printing the map in A3 format, the printer would be able to precisely print each cell.

To make the sights more noticeable in smaller format, they must first be simplified. This turned out to be a rather fascinating process. The principal features of each building are singled out from their photographs. These could include recognizable windows and doors, bas-reliefs or sculptures. Naturally, an icon need not be very precise, but should only adhere to the shape and general image of the building. Similar to how the exact borders of the city or ring-shaped transport lines cannot be reproduced from memory, it is easier to just remember a more simplified, concise version of them, just as it is impossible to recall the precise number of sculptures on the facade of Notre Dame de Paris. An entire picture simply cannot fit into the average memory. People only remember general features: two towers, a circular window in the center, three arches below. This is sufficient to make an icon memorable and not to overload it at the same time. Icons with excessive detail in a small format look messy on a map.

53
(View large version54)

But while many sights can be easily depicted based on a photo of the facade, there are exceptions. For example, a sports stadium or Disneyland would need to be drawn differently.

Yet stadiums are not always recognizable when viewed from the side, and they rarely possess any characteristic features or unique architectural forms. However, when viewed from the top, they are easily perceptible because the inside can be depicted as a football field. Also, people more frequently see stadiums on TV when they are filmed from a bird’s-eye view.

Places like Disneyland are more easily recognizable not from any architectural image, but from their symbols. For Disneyland, that is Mickey Mouse.

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(View large version56)

Line Harmony Link

To avoid making the map look chaotic and to give it a certain graphical rhythm, I needed to create connections between the similar placement of parallel lines on the map itself.

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(View large version58)

Take a look at these four fragments. It is not difficult to notice that the distance between two parallel lines in any of the four cases is the same. This was done on purpose as a way to “calm” the graphical elements on the map. In other words, this is another addition to the rules of the grid and radii of curvature. But here, no rule is ever set in stone. There may be several types of indentations between parallel lines, and their selection is directly related to the overall artistic theme.

Below, I used rectangles to highlight the places where the same space is left between parallel lines. They set the rhythm of the image.

59
(View large version60)

Naturally, this is just a sample of the equal distances. There are far more of them, and their interdependencies might be far more complex.

For example, elegant graphics can be created by manipulating the curves of river and transit lines. The image on the left shows the river and RER C line (yellow) on the map, and the one on the right shows their actual geographic position.

61
(View large version62)

A few paragraphs above, we covered the rules for smoothing angles and established certain principles, but the design also allows for exceptions to even the strictest rules. The curves of the RER C line do not follow the rules of the other bends. Here, the curvature radius of angles is formed following the river’s general rhythm, because the shape of the line depends largely on the route of the Seine. Therefore, the RER C line simply clings to the river and moves along with it.

Iterations Link

This article cannot cover each individual fragment of the map, so I will limit myself to a description of just one of the most complex sections and how it developed. The topic of focus here is the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe junction. I believe this example does a lot to explain the general process of working on this map.

First, I attempted to bring the lines together in such a way that the transfer would be depicted as a single point where the lines of each transfer station are intersecting.

63
(View large version64)

But the resulting crossings were not visually pleasing, and the straight lines failed to meld with the ring line.

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(View large version66)

Ultimately, I tried several versions to solve this issue, and also attempted to draw sections of the straight lines as ring lines.

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(View large version68)

At some point, the junction even started to come into its own. I felt like I could just stop there, but after digging through the old maps of Paris and talking to city residents, I understood that the transfer as a whole could not be narrowed down to just a single point. The heart of the matter was that, in the past, the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station did not yet exist; rather, there were actually two different transfer junctions, Gare Montparnasse and Bienvenüe. Between them there was no transfer. So, the common name, Montparnasse-Bienvenüe, was adopted only after they had been joined. And the distance between these stations is expansive, so transfers here are quite long and inconvenient.

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(View large version70)

If there were no alternative options to building the route, they could just be left as they were, with no attention paid to the fact that transferring here takes so long. But when looking at the official map, many passengers travelling on the 12 (dark green) see the very first crossing with the 6 (light green) at the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station, even though they could take a much shorter transfer at Pasteur if they continued a little further. But the eye fails to catch this detail.

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(View large version72)

Thus, on my map, I divided up the transfer visually to hint at the long transfer time.

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(View large version74)

After another dozen iterations, I arrived at the following result:

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(View large version76)

It seems wrong to break the transfer into two parts connected by a communication line, but after studying all of the details, it is evident that a map should first and foremost help passengers map the quickest routes.

Development Perspectives Link

When developing a new map for a rapidly growing city, studying plans for further construction is also a must. My idea for ring-shaped lines enjoys significant support from Paris’ future urban development plans. Another ring-shaped line will be made into a loop around Paris within the next 15 years. This time, the new ring will be made up of just the 15 line.

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(View large version78)

I ultimately chose not to allocate much precious space to the new ring before it has even been built. So, I compressed it into the shape of an egg and only included the section that will be operational by 2024, the lower semi-ring.

To integrate the new semi-ring visually with the rest of the map, I repeated the shape in the already existing tram line T1, and I mirrored the semi-ring shape to the north.

79
(View large version80)

Aside from the 15, serious changes are scheduled for both the RER E and 14, which will be extended beyond city limits. Therefore, when working on my map, I immediately took them into account. All lines currently being built are shown by dotted lines.

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(View large version82)

The Process Link

In my effort to create a new Paris metro map, I saved the intermediate versions so that I could return to them if I deviated too far in a certain direction for any reason. I created mockups of the map every 15 to 30 minutes by saving them to a new file. By the time the first version was completed, I had over 800 files saved.

I then combined all of these files into a video to show more concisely what went into the creation of the new map. You can now see how each node evolved as the project went on.

The map is still not recognized as official, but I have over one hundred reports of satisfied users after its publication in June.

I hope that the Paris public transportation operator will take my experience into account when updating the official map. I also intend to expand the map and supplement it with new stations as soon as they open. The latest version of the map is available on my website83.

(vf, il, yk, al)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Paris_Metro_map91.0-large-opt.png
  2. 2 http://metromap.fr/en
  3. 3 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Paris_Metro_map91.0-large-opt.png
  4. 4 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp-large-opt.png
  5. 5 http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php
  6. 6 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp-large-opt.png
  7. 7 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/06/map-design-redesigning-ekaterinburgs-metro-map/
  8. 8 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/maps-in-modern-web-design/
  9. 9 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/train-and-airport-signs-part-2/
  10. 10 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/01/50-problems-in-50-days-the-power-of-not-knowing/
  11. 11 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Moscow-large-opt.png
  12. 12 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Moscow-large-opt.png
  13. 13 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/London-large-opt.png
  14. 14 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/London-large-opt.png
  15. 15 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Berlin-large-opt.png
  16. 16 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Berlin-large-opt.png
  17. 17 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Paris-large-opt.png
  18. 18 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Paris-large-opt.png
  19. 19 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/geographic-large-opt.png
  20. 20 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/geographic-large-opt.png
  21. 21 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Oldmap-large-opt.jpg
  22. 22 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Oldmap-large-opt.jpg
  23. 23 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/oldmap2-large-opt.jpg
  24. 24 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/oldmap2-large-opt.jpg
  25. 25 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/logo-large-opt.png
  26. 26 http://www.ratp.fr
  27. 27 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/logo-large-opt.png
  28. 28 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp2-large-opt.png
  29. 29 http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?nompdf=metro_geo&loc=secteur&fm=pdf
  30. 30 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp2-large-opt.png
  31. 31 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp3-large-opt.png
  32. 32 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ratp3-large-opt.png
  33. 33 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/45degrees-large-opt.png
  34. 34 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/45degrees-large-opt.png
  35. 35 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process-large-opt.jpg
  36. 36 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process-large-opt.jpg
  37. 37 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process2-large-opt.jpg
  38. 38 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process2-large-opt.jpg
  39. 39 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/30degrees-large-opt.png
  40. 40 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/30degrees-large-opt.png
  41. 41 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Chatelet-large-opt.png
  42. 42 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Chatelet-large-opt.png
  43. 43 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/angle-large-opt.png
  44. 44 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/angle-large-opt.png
  45. 45 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/angle-circle-large-opt.png
  46. 46 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/angle-circle-large-opt.png
  47. 47 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/straws-large-opt.png
  48. 48 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/straws-large-opt.png
  49. 49 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/paris_metro_map_north-large-opt.png
  50. 50 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/paris_metro_map_north-large-opt.png
  51. 51 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/paris_metro_map_white-large-opt.png
  52. 52 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/paris_metro_map_white-large-opt.png
  53. 53 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Icons_Notre_Dame-large-opt.png
  54. 54 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Icons_Notre_Dame-large-opt.png
  55. 55 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Icons_of_Paris_attractions-large-opt.png
  56. 56 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Icons_of_Paris_attractions-large-opt.png
  57. 57 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Line_harmony-large-opt.png
  58. 58 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Line_harmony-large-opt.png
  59. 59 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Line_harmony2-large-opt.png
  60. 60 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Line_harmony2-large-opt.png
  61. 61 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Seine_river-large-opt.png
  62. 62 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Seine_river-large-opt.png
  63. 63 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process3-large-opt.png
  64. 64 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process3-large-opt.png
  65. 65 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process4-large-opt.png
  66. 66 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process4-large-opt.png
  67. 67 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process5-large-opt.png
  68. 68 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process5-large-opt.png
  69. 69 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/history-large-opt.jpg
  70. 70 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/history-large-opt.jpg
  71. 71 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/way-large-opt.png
  72. 72 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/way-large-opt.png
  73. 73 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process6-large-opt.png
  74. 74 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process6-large-opt.png
  75. 75 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process7-large-opt.png
  76. 76 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/process7-large-opt.png
  77. 77 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Grand-Paris-Express-map-large-opt.jpg
  78. 78 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Grand-Paris-Express-map-large-opt.jpg
  79. 79 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/15line_Paris-large-opt.jpg
  80. 80 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/15line_Paris-large-opt.jpg
  81. 81 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/14line_Paris-large-opt.png
  82. 82 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/14line_Paris-large-opt.png
  83. 83 http://metromap.fr/en

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Information designer engaged in the development of maps and wayfinding. My interests include urban studies and the history of cities. I also create stop-motion and video at my own studio Teeter-totter-tam.http://ru.gravatar.com/ckonovalov.

  1. 1

    Great work. RATP really needs to use yours as an official one

    26
  2. 2

    Awesome work! Thanks for the insights!

    9
  3. 3

    I’m sorry, but I prefer the official map, and I don’t live in Paris (meaning I’m not used to it).

    Making things too curvy, too abstract is making it harder to read for me.

    5
    • 4

      Sanya Juutilainen

      January 30, 2017 5:38 pm

      I think the original is less informative in that regard, though.

      The main point is that the eye, at the first look, has nothing to catch on. Maybe the river, but if you are far in the north/south from it, it becomes very tough.

      The circle, when we look at it from this side, has the advantage of covering pretty much the whole map and provides more points to catch upon. And in its middle, where it’s far from it, you can catch by icons, which are fairly widespread in that part, like Louvre and others.
      (Not to mention addition of such important icons like airport, how that could be missing in the old map I don’t really understand.)

      I think it could still be optimized, but by this point we’re talking preferences (I like it curvy vs I like it right-angled). The improved readibility for a visitor is clear, in my opinion.

      7
  4. 5

    Sanya Juutilainen

    January 30, 2017 2:32 pm

    A great work and a great article, love the detail of insight into the process.

    11
  5. 6

    a parisian guy

    January 30, 2017 4:42 pm

    Wonderful job, thanx a lot!

    3
  6. 7

    Wow, I like it. What program did you use to paint it?

    2
  7. 9

    Current map made by RATP is not beautiful but practical and functional just as parisian metro. Distances between stations and lines are close to real which helps a lot during route planning.
    Radial map is nice and fancy but it is made to please designers, not to help to commute in Paris. I really hope RATP will ignore this design or at least make a vote.

    5
    • 10

      The point of the circles isn’t just “to please designers”. It’s to make the presence of looped routes obvious.

      The designer explicitly states the reason being that “[the loop] contours simply merge with the other numerous lines.” Being able to immediately notice these loops objectively increases any given reader’s ability to understand the map. Not just look fancy.

      I’m not going to claim that I’m an expert and know that this is the best way to approach the map, but the RATP shouldn’t just outright ignore a series of well-thought-out recommendations.

      7
      • 11

        Just as an example, compare stations around Nation, especially line 6 with actual map of Paris and current map made by RATP. I disagree with author when he compares with metro lines of Paris and Moscow. It is OK to simplify when you have very few station with huge span between them. It won’t change much – you will not choose wrong station if other closest is 1km away. But it matters a lot when you speak about Parisian metro with spans as short as 200 meters.

        3
  8. 12

    Living in Paris

    January 30, 2017 7:32 pm

    Love it. Showing the long transfer between e. g. Montparnasse and Bienvenue is a very important improvement.

    11
  9. 13

    Beautiful result. Love the grid solution, the attraction icons, the respect to the Parisine typography. Will have it on our phones next time we’re there.

    4
  10. 14

    This is just like all the design students that endlessly redesign Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia is not very pretty, but that’s not what it’s for. This a-historic life-hack culture of “hey guys why didn’t you think of doing it like THIS?” needs to stop. I have lived in Paris for 5 years and I’ve never felt the RATP map to be inadequate.

    9
    • 15

      If something is bad and you know it, why not try to improve it? That doesnt make any sense.

      0
      • 16

        Your comment is a non sequitur. I did not say “let us not improve a bad thing”, my statement was that the RATP map is not “bad”.

        I also expressed disgust with the current tendency online that attractive design > all other concerns. A map is not there to look pretty. It is a tool to help people navigate the area it depicts. The current RATP map does this well.

        4
        • 17

          You dont seem to understand what “design” is. It has nothing to do with “pretty”. The article made it quite clear that the changes are about usability, not fancy colors and forms for their own sake.

          If you think the current map is more usable than the one proposed here that’s okay. But your original statement said: “Wikipedia is not very pretty, stop trying to improve it”.

          4
    • 18

      The map is probably adequate for people who live in Paris. I do, and I often used the map with roads on it (before our phones were able to do it better).
      But I agree with this article that the map is not that great for tourists. Like the airport icons are so small, a comment here is saying they are missing… The example about Montparnasse is quite representative too.

      1
      • 19

        The current official map is adequate for « knowing people ». When you always use the same lines to go to some utilities, or have habits. You know on the map where are your points of interest, and you build your own map around it.
        The main point of this article is to explain the way of building such catching points. It is absolutely not about building a pleasant map, but a useable and clear map.
        And this works very well.

        But you’re right, it is not necessary for the usual travellers of the RATP network : they don’t need catching point. They have their owns.

        0
  11. 20

    Awesome job!

    1
  12. 21

    Tariq Mahmood

    January 31, 2017 4:10 am

    Good Job. I love the new map and all the hard work is much appreciated.

    3
  13. 22

    I went to Paris many times and this map looks more useful than the official. I really like how the transfers between lines are clear. I had this exact problem by using the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station to transfer instead of Pasteur.

    A observation: looks like the Cluny-La Sorbonne station is in the wrong place. You put it at West of the RER-B line (blue), but it is at East. It’s closer to where Maubert-Mutualité is on your map.

    I know you probably tried to fit the stations and names in a small space, but this can be confusing if you are looking for a station in a place and it’s not there.

    4
  14. 23

    Lucas L Jordan

    January 31, 2017 6:52 am

    Having just been in Paris I wished I had had this map.
    The thing I love most about this version is it clearly shows how the stations/ routes are connected that is the part I find most confusing in the official map.

    0
  15. 24

    You missed one very important point

    January 31, 2017 9:40 am

    You did a very good job on the transfers, but overall the original map is still better, for one simple reason:

    you missed the point that Paris is a (very) walkable city, and thus any map that deforms too much the surface of the city is simply unuseable from that point of view. Yours is great for going from metro station to metro station, but useless before entering them (“where is the closest station to here?” is a frequent question asked to locals, and the answer is often complex).

    8
    • 25

      You think tourists use a Metro map to check walking distances? I wouldn’t.

      0
      • 26

        However, all Parisians use the original map to check distances.

        4
        • 27

          Yes, it’s right. You don’t have room enough in your pocket to have many more map than the usual underground map.

          0
  16. 28

    Awesome work. Inspirational. Thanks for capturing the process.

    0
  17. 29

    great work!

    0
  18. 30

    I remember I have left a message for you about this issue but I am saying it again. I am baffled by the fact that text in the PDF version of your map isn’t searchable, unlike the official version. Given the sheer amount of stations in the Paris rail map, this shortcoming particularly hampers realistic application of your map.

    6
  19. 31

    Great job! Better readable than the RATP map.
    Especially since in the city centre, walking distances are not too far, I prefer a map like this one on which the connections are more clear.

    One note: Two stations should be moved a bit in my opinion: ‘Avenue du pdt Kennedy’ is 50m from the Seine (not in the middle of 16th arrondissement as on current version of the map), and adjacent Boulainvilliers station is South/SE of La Muette (west on current map).

    For practical use (i.e., finding the fastest route for getting from A to B) I will keep on using google maps and the RATP app, however this one is beautiful and now has a prominent place on my refrigerator :-)

    1
  20. 32

    Martim Schnack

    February 2, 2017 4:03 am

    Great job. I didn’t read the initial paragraph and decided to open the map to check how bad it is. So I opened the first image and thought “This is really good, no idea why someone would spend a lot of time redesigning it.”. Then I read the first paragraph :)

    When I opened the real current map, I was like “Holy cow! This is bad. Really bad.” In my opinion, the best thing you did was to use icons to show the location of the tourist attractions. Huge time-saver for people like me (not familiar with Paris geography).

    Once again, great job!

    0
  21. 33

    There is one thing people do not understand. To get into metro you must first find the right station while your on surface. It can be easily done with the one of RATP. At worst case you need hold real map of Paris with RATPs side by side. That’s how it works for both visitors and Parisians. This circular map does not represent physical location of stations. You’ll have hard time choosing between few stations around you, searching where is it just to find later that it actually the wrong one just because it is misplaced just for better look.
    Also I don’t believe it is correct to use map of Moscow’s metro as reference. Few dozens of stations with huge distances between them doesn’t leave any chance to pick a wrong station. You would check and recheck before walking about 1km to metro station. But it is not the case of Parisian metro. Average distance is 200 meters.
    As of missing tourist attractions on official map. It is also wrong. The RATP map you compare to is a reference. No tourist will ever use or see it. All tourist accommodations distribute maps adapted for visitors. Every quai at every station has a rather big map with all tourist attractions.

    The only thing I agree is a problem with Montparnasse-Bienvenue. It happened to me to change at this station couple of times before I remembered to avoid it. But again, i don’t believe that this particular fix is an excuse for the rest of the map.

    2
  22. 34

    Never been to paris. But hope I can use this map in future. Great work

    0
  23. 35

    Great work! Really interesting to see the making of it too.
    I hope one day RATP adopts your map or something similar.

    0
  24. 36

    Ali Shahbaz Mehdi

    February 2, 2017 11:37 am

    A good read.
    I like that you stick to basics like colours, shape and proportions so that people who’re already accustomed to original map don’t get confused. The curve addition was definitely going to be a beneficial action that it create more easily interpreted by mind in less time, also creating visual space and harmony.

    Not a very big change but an important one as it needed to be. Good work overall. Cheers.

    1
  25. 37

    I think you can remove the yellow background.
    It’s a thing of the past when there was different pricing zones, they don’t exists anymore (since last year).
    And removing the distinctive background between paris city limits and its suburbs will go in the same movement, that is “grand paris”. It would be a big step in trying to change people’s mind about how Paris is not only Paris inside city’s limits anymore.

    1
    • 38

      Thorbjørn Thaarup

      April 16, 2017 9:59 pm

      This is actually a very important point. The Region is trying to change the whole idea about what is Paris and what is not. This is to improve cohesion in a region which has been heavily divided between Paris within the ring from the 19th Century and the Banlieus outside of it.

      0
  26. 39

    Great Job with the re-designed map. Looks really beautiful and clear Thank you!

    1
  27. 40

    really interesting work!!! And it also is making me want to go to Paris!!! If I do, I know which map I would use ;)

    2
  28. 41

    Impressive piece of work, thanks for sharing.

    As your map is about readability and not about sticking (too much) to reality it’s a success. In my opinion you could remove all or most of the background, making it even clearer, just like in some of your attempts.

    To answer the remarks about not being realistic enough, this is clearly not the goal (though it has to be kept in mind). It’s beautiful and clear, what makes it very usable.

    But I agree that the paper version should have a realistic map on the back (maybe with only dotted and fainted lines to stay clear) dedicated to walking and similar needs: not much difficult to envision ;-)

    Same for a pdf or app version: only a swipe to choose between readable or realistic… not that difficult ;-)

    0
  29. 42

    All you metro map fans in the world I strongly recommend to have a look at the korean design agency zeroperzero for their wonderful metro map redesigns as well: http://www.zeroperzero.com/city-railway-system

    1
  30. 43

    Without knowning Paris metro system and I’ve also never been there yet: The symbolic representations of buildings are in my opinion too detailed for the overall chosen granularity… lines too fine make it hard to detect which object should be represented. The airport icons however have only little impact and are hard to find. Major train stations are completely missing (however also in the original).

    The curvy style seems also to make following lines a not so easy taskand might benefit from a slightly smaller radius.

    The idea of making circular connections visible is however very appealing. I don’t mind skewed proportions as a stranger, because for entering the metro system I’d need a regular map anyways to match my current position – and hopefully metro entries are listed on this map then. However I’m now imagining a map 2.0 where I could layer ground level map and metro map seamlessly and zoomable on a digital device like a smartphone and tablet. Skew the proportions if I’m far away on metro level, show correct and detailed when on ground level view (but skip station names for example and just show POI names).

    But I find the overall concept very attractive.

    0
    • 44

      Oh and the 60° is a very welcoming touch, however are the so few 30° lines that I’d wonder if it’s possible to skip those completely and make them either 60° or 0°. It also doesn’t need to be a perfect circle in my opinion, oval or egg shaped lines might help to reduce some proportion skews.

      0
  31. 45

    Hello!
    Very beautiful map. I have seen a little mistake : line K stops at Mitry-Claye : https://www.transilien.com/fr/gare/mitry-claye-8727152

    Congrats & thanks for your work!

    0
  32. 46

    Amazing incredible work! Really impressive! I’m italian and also Rome’s map need a redesign like that! :D

    0
  33. 47

    Thorbjørn Thaarup

    April 16, 2017 9:44 pm

    I know the Paris metro very well, and have followed the different maps through the last 20 years and read about the ones going all the way back to the start of the system. This is by far the most beautiful map of the metro I have ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the most useful, but it’s hard for me to say because I know the old maps and the system itself.
    I’ll give the new map that it, apart from the beauty, also improves on the Montparnasse junction and others where it’s hard to know how far you have to walk underground. As far as I can tell it also accurately depicts the distance between Line 1 and 14 at Gare de Lyon as well as the proximity of Line 14 and 4 at Chatelet. Good job!

    Personally I prefer a little less abstraction and more coherence with geography. It strongly annoys me that Line 1 is bend at Champs Elysées on the official minimap for instance. But for geographic accuracy we still have the larger maps at the stations I guess. I don’t know if the huge difference between this new map and the official big map at the stations is too large for this new one to be accepted into official use, but the RATP can certainly leatn something from this.

    I loved this article. Thank you.

    0
    • 48

      Thorbjørn Thaarup

      April 16, 2017 10:08 pm

      I should’ve written that the bend in Line 1 on the official map is just after Concorde and not at the Champs Elysées, but there is no bend either place anyway apart from a small curve where the line runs under Rue Rivoli and not directly under the Louvre and the gardens.

      That said I feel that Line 1’s very straight nature is indeed VERY suitable as a basis for a map. In real life the only substantial bend is towards Gare de Lyon and back towards Nation. If I would make a map I would probably combine the circle of Line 2 and 6 with a cross consisting Line 1 and 4. I’m not sayin it would be easy though.

      0
  34. 49

    I want to ask, how do I create a transport map like this?
    What applications or addons are needed?

    I loved this article. Thank you.
    :-)

    0

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