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Project: 1989 East Berlin Bahnhofsübersicht Map Digital Recreation

Click here to view a larger version of the map

I’ve long admired this fascinating map of the railway network in and around East Berlin, produced at the tail end of the Cold War in 1989. However, the only copy of it I’d ever seen was a horribly oversaturated scan that I reviewed over on Transit Maps back in 2012. So I was absolutely overjoyed when I was pointed towards this far superior scan (left), which is both higher resolution and much more colour accurate: for a start, you can actually tell the difference between the dark green S-Bahn and light green regional lines!

Despite the better quality, the scan was still unsuitable for Photoshop-based restoration and reproduction, so I decided – as I often do – to recreate it completely in Adobe Illustrator. Along the way, I discovered many interesting things. For starters, the map was almost certainly printed with five spot colours: dark green, light green, blue, black and light grey. Unfortunately, this does lead to some serious registration problems on the original map (mainly due to the cheap, flimsy paper the map is printed on), but at least the colours are bright and distinct.

Next, the typography is an interesting mix of the expected – Helvetica for subheadings and Univers Bold for all the station labels – and the more esoteric. I had a very difficult time matching the font used for the larger light grey text: no common historically-accurate sans serif typefaces seemed to combine its distinctive lower-case “k” and interesting top-heavy “ß” glyph. Almost by chance, I came across a reference to a typeface called Maxima, designed by Gert Wunderlich for the East German type foundry Typoart in the 1960s. I tested it out and it was an almost exact match: mystery solved!

Interestingly, the train icon used on the map to signify an interchange with mainline rail services is absolutely identical to the one digitised in Erik Spiekermann’s FF Transit Pict, which certainly saved me some time because I didn’t have to redraw the darn thing! This really isn’t that surprising, as FF Transit was originally designed as a custom typeface for Berlin’s transit network after reunification.

From a technical viewpoint, the map is quite well drawn, though I did have to apply some corrections to account for the terrible ink registration. Some of the labels along the north-east branch to Werneuchen seem to be misplaced in relation to their station dots, but I’ve left them as they were on the original map, because I’m making a recreation, not designing a new version of the map.

This one’s just a design project, not a map for sale in my store – 1989 is way too close to the present day to be messing around with potential copyright problems. However, comments are always welcome!

1 Comment so far

  1. Alexander

    “Bartholomes” probably is Bernd Bartholomes, a graphic designer credited for several East German book and traffic magazine covers in the 1970s/1980s. He seems to have worked for trade magazines after the reunification and is still listed with his design studio’s phone number on Google – just in case you want to seek for permission. (In addition to Deutsche Bahn, of course, being the successor to the GDR Reichsbahn.)

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