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These 7 Rules Could Create One Subway Map For The Entire World

Even the boldest urban dwellers can get lost on the subway. Maybe not in their own city–*scoff* never! *scoff*–but when traveling abroad, train lines can transform into labyrinths. Why? Well, every city is different, sure. But more importantly, there’s no one standardized approach to mapping trains.

Architect and mapmaker Jug Cerovic would like to change that. He’s developed a universal mapping standard he calls INAT.

You can break his methodology down to seven rules:

  1. The city center sits at the center (because, duh).
  2. The center is a basic shape, like a circle or square (for visual simplicity).
  3. The center is zoomed in (because that area is always congested with lines).
  4. All lines must run vertical, horizontal, or at 45-degree angles (again, for visual simplicity).
  5. Their angles should be smooth (to feel more familiar, city to city).
  6. Their colors and connection iconography are standardized (duh again).
  7. All text must be listed in local and Latin lettering (for the tourists, aka all of us).

His resulting maps sacrifice geographic literalness for something that’s more important: approachability. Flip through the maps he’s made so far–whether it’s London, Seoul, Shanghai, Barcelona, or even the infamously complicated Tokyo–and everything is familiar and, for lack of a better term, not so scary.


Now if this work seems superficial, I’d urge you to read more about the science of subway mapmaking. Put simply, visual clutter really does blur a map inside someone’s mind. Distinct lines with clear, horizontal typography, are vital in conceptualizing a transit network in a glance.

And while one can’t be certain if Cerovic’s approach is scientifically optimal–in fact, it seems likely that thicker lines, like those in Massimo Vignelli’s infamous NYC subway map, might appear sharper in our brains–a universal map system seems like a pretty good idea. If only the whole world didn’t have to agree on it.

Read more here.

[Hat tip: Taxi]MW