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Washington Metro Diagram: My Last Word

Washington, DC Metro Diagram: Version 3

This is it. My final take on a redesigned Washington, D.C. Metro Map. This is my third major revision of a project that began in February of last year, and won the People’s Choice Award in the Greater Greater Washington “Redesign the Metro Map” contest earlier this year. I’ve taken time away from this diagram to work on a few other projects recently, but the release of Lance Wyman’s draft diagram has inspired me to finish an “ultimate” version of my vision of the diagram.

This version looks quite similar to the previous two, but has been reworked to take into account comments that I received after the GGW contest, and also incorporates some successful elements from other entries in that contest, such as subtitles for lengthy station names. (Best. Idea. Ever.)

Some of the bigger changes include a thickening of the route lines, “tick” markers for stations that point towards the station’s label (to combat some criticism that it was sometimes difficult to determine which label belonged to which station in my previous versions) and a general tightening of the layout to be more compact. Type size is also increased throughout. I’ve also dropped the separate full route lines for the new peak-only services that I used in the contest: general consensus seemed to indicate this was more confusing than helpful. The peak extensions to the Yellow and Orange lines are now shown as spurs of the main line, as on Lance Wyman’s new draft diagram. I’ve also come up with a much better device for showing the out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North than my contest version.

Working on this diagram has been great fun, and I’m incredibly proud of the reaction and attention it has got. My reasoning has always been that there is more than one way to solve a design problem, and if I’ve been able to make people think about why they like the current one, or if they find they like this one better, then that’s just a bonus!

View the diagram on Flickr for access to a 4000px version. As always, comments are welcome!


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  2. Andrew

    In the first episode of the new show Elementary, Sherlock Holmes has a poster of the New York Subway (or as he of course calls it, “the Tube”) up in his apartment. So, anyone with a Metro map up, you’re in interesting company: Awesome that you’re just like Sherlock Holmes, but on the other hand, who wants to be JUST like Sherlock Holmes? πŸ™‚

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  4. Bernie

    I loved your map; I think it’s the best in the competition and I certainly gave you the vote! It’s a shame the jury ultimately chose familiarity over aesthetic quality.
    If you are interested; I’d love to hear your critique of some of my (amateur) maps:
    1. Hong Kong (future MTR):
    2. Shanghai (up to 2012):
    3. Sydney (all fantasy, to be frank):

    • Probably not, unless I get a huge surge of requests. Despite all the talk generated by my version of the map, interest in prints has been surprisingly low, especially compared to my Interstate as Subway and Amtrak maps.

      • Bernadette

        I’d love to buy a print- let me know if you change your mind!

  5. Edits to correct some errors have been made. After a head-exploding discussion with Matt Johnson about future routing and time tabling, I have also decided to show the Silver Line as future service, as per the GGW contest requirements… mainly because no one knows where some trains will run after the Silver Line is fully up and running.

  6. Andrew

    I like it, but to be honest I think I liked the previous version better. I find gaps more aesthetically pleasing than ticks; ticks bulk it up, whereas gaps give it a nice… airiness? Though I do agree that spurs at this point make more sense than additional shaded-color lines (and that might be a complete 180 from my original stance…)

    I do like the little icon for the virtual tunnel.

    After looking at the now-cramped western Orange Line, it took me a few minutes to realize why – you’ve distorted the whole geography to make the center larger. Which makes perfect sense – it’s a diagram, not a map, and for a system diagram this kind of distortion would probably be better than keeping the dimensions more real and just extending the diagram forever towards the west.

    That said, I think I prefer the original version that I have hanging on my wall, for aesthetics, but this one is probably better for actual use. πŸ™‚ And you have indeed made me think about why I liked the current diagram; before all this, I thought thin lines and spurs were something only other, bigger, fancier systems had, and our little five-color diagram was cute and small and simple and useful. But it needs to grow up and become more complex, to reflect a more complex system.

    • Andrew,

      thanks once again for your thoughtful comments. I think that my diagram has made the journey from aesthetically pleasing art to slightly less aesthetic, but more practically useful, diagram. Almost all the changes have been based on the comments I’ve got, so I think I’ve gone in a direction that reflects what people want to see in a diagram WITHOUT it ending up looking exactly like the current one. The ticks came about because some people mentioned it was hard to see which station went with which marker before. I’m committed to completely horizontal type in my diagram, so I added the ticks for that extra clarity.

    • Look at an actual map of that area and you’ll see that Huntington is really at an angle relative to King St. Going straight down places Huntington next to the river, which it isn’t.

      • Andrew

        That little bend in the lower Yellow Line was one of my favorite parts, actually.

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