A great story from Eddie Jabbour, chronicled by Julie Steele at O’Reilly Radar, tells the story of his desire to redesign the New York City subway map into something easier to understand and use, and then put it in the hands of users. While I personally find his design appealing, he’s found difficulties in distributing it.
Ultimately, I do think the KickMap accomplished most of my goals: to make the subway lines and their connections as clear as possible for easier navigation, and to provide users with a clear representation of where they are once they exit a station so that the subway feels familiar and welcoming to all.
My main goal, however, was to get my map out there into the hands of subway riders. After the MTA rejected my design, I found an alternative way to distribute it, via Apple’s iTunes — two apps, one free and one paid, for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
All of the choices I made were aimed at trying to make the user experience as seamless and pleasant as possible. Clearly I’m striking a chord, as over 250,000 people (and counting) have now downloaded copies of the KickMap from iTunes.
Nonetheless, it’s a great article on some of the difficult decisions involved in design of such an iconic map used by millions, and how the content of the map (the Subway) isn’t the only design criteria:
One of the issues I have with some previous versions of the New York subway map is that I have a hard time believing that the designers ever actually rode the subway as an integral part of their lives in the city. There’s a disconnect between many of the decisions they made and the reality of the subway. As part of my design process, I rode the lines and exited the stations at every major intersection with which I was unfamiliar. There is a strong relationship in New York between the aboveground and the belowground, and since subway riders don’t cease to exist when they leave the subway, it’s important for the map to express this relationship as clearly as possible. Otherwise, the result is an uncomfortable feeling of disorientation.
via Redesigning the New York City subway map – O’Reilly Radar.