KickMap View of City Subways

Posted on: August 9th, 2010 at 6:18 am by

With the elimination of the W and V, and the re-routing of the M train last month, the New York City subway map changed yet again.  To many city dwellers, the map is second nature and fairly easy to decipher.  But for others still, it can be a daunting task; tourists poring over an unfolded map is all too common.

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In comes designer Eddie Jabbour, whose re-tooling of the map was rejected by the MTA.  So Jabbour instead submitted his recreation, dubbed KickMap, to the iPhone App store. One of the cooler features of KickMap is the ability to view a “night mode” of the map, which only shows the lines running between 11 pm and 6:30 am.

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[1958 Subway Map]

To promote the App, Jabbour wrote an in-depth article for O’Reilly Radar describing his inspiration behind re-designing one of the most complex transit maps in the world. Included are plenty of photos of older maps, too.

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[KickMap comparison of Lower Manhattan via KickMap]

It’s a lengthy read, but definitely worth the investment.  Here are some choice excerpts:

Like most New Yorkers, I used the subway map rarely and never carried it. This was in part because of its size: it was as large as a foldout road map. If I needed the map’s information to get to a new location, I would tear out the relevant six-inch square portion from a free map in the station and throw the rest of it in the trash! I often saw tourists struggling with the physical map and felt bad for them, remembering my great experience as a student in London.

When I decided to try making a new map as a weekend project (ha!), the first thing I considered was the size. Since the New York City subway system has about twice as many stations as London’s, I decided to give myself twice as much space as the Tube map takes. (Even doubling the size of the Tube map, the result was about one-fifth the size of the existing New York subway map.)

The KickMap is based on a combination of ideas I selectively borrowed from many earlier maps (some dating back to the 19th century) and my own innovations. I believe that this unique combination makes my map easier to use than most of the preceding efforts. In the following sections, I’ll discuss my inspirations and innovations in more detail.

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 Gizmodo]

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