A true classic never dies, but it can be replaced and not always by a worthy successor. “Nobody likes a change for the worst!” A conversation I had with Mr. Jimmy James a few weeks back still echoes in my mind from time to time. I had mentioned a re-design of the Bay Area Rapid Transit map (aka B.A.R.T.) and how it’s now a much simpler design. True, it’s now less geographically accurate but it’s much easier to read. There is some controversy over the new design in the Bay Area and some extreme adaptations.
Sometimes designers get lost with all the information they need to display and never achieve an intuitive design that is visually compelling. This philosophy is true for much in the world, making designs user friendly and not just maps. But I’m trying to make a point, so here goes.
I recently traveled to London and used their underground transit system, at first like anything new, it took a few minutes for me to understand all the routes and how the system functioned. But once I got the hang of it, the map was ingenious in its simplicity. In actuality the routes are not as simple as shown, but are laid out in equal increments of one another, at straight or 45 degree angles and have bright primary colors for visibility. The new B.A.R.T. map is very similar to the Underground map but is simpler by nature with less information to display. London is a crazy network of streets and tunnels similar to New York. They too updated their map recently, the map from 1972 seems to be the best so far (Apparently this design style was common in the past) and they abandoned the simpler look only a few years later. I’m sure the locals were not happy with the change…I wouldn’t have been.
The designers of the world create the visual tone of a city (or a country) much like a skyline can define it, so can its signage. I appreciate it when they make a point to welcome a newcomer, not confuse the shhh out of them! I’ve had a few instances driving around the greater Seattle area, getting use to some of the freeway exits and where they were in relation to the signs. Other than that its been a smooth transition and I really enjoy my new home, Los Angeles was crazy city in comparison, as I’m sure you’ll all agree… even if you’ve never been.
While writing this blog I stumbled across this map of all the major freeways and cities in united states. The artist uses the London Underground diagram as his inspiration. Jimmy Jam also mentioned that all odd numbered freeways (like I-5) run North/South and all even freeways (like I-90) run West/East , I knew this subconsciously I swear.
So to sum up, I love change… for the better. I love good designs and great ideas. Especially when they come together as one. I used a Mini-Disc player for years. Until a portable hard drive you could listen to became an option, but thats another story.