Literal vs interpretation

The schematic London Underground map is like the difference between a technical rendition of a piece of music followed to the note in how it was written, and the alternative of seeing and understanding how to technically play the piece, but choosing to play it in ones own style. If you perform a purely technical rendition, you end up with the geographical London Underground map. If you perform an individually styled version of the same piece, that might be like the schematic London Underground map – it’s not a literal interpretation, but it still keeps the same ‘essence’ while ending up looking quite different. Perhaps this helps us answer the question is the map a work of art as much as a work of design?

Form follows function?

Of course, applying the individually styled principle means you could get all sorts of varients, some good, some bad – but all unique. The ones most likely to last are the ones that universally work – the London Underground map is an example of this, and one of the things that makes it a design classic. It is almost over-simplified, but that’s the beauty of it – something complex made instantly understandable. Does form follow function here? Or does the London Underground map break the rules? It is the very way the map is formed that makes it so functional. Perhaps another thing which makes a design classic is that although it may be ‘tweeked’ over time, but much of the original, and the pure ‘essence’ of the original obviously remains over time. This indicates that something about the design (the ‘X factor’ of the design, perhaps) thus far, cannot significantly be improved upon – even if it’s not ultimately perfect, (and sometimes as with the VW camper for example, far from perfect – but that doesn’t always matter it would seem if the inspiration is infectious).

Other Related Links

Google images showing London Underground map
Basic article about the history of the London Underground map
history of London Tube maps


In case you stumbled across this blog post, expecting to find the London Underground map you can use, here is a link to the current London Underground Map and other maps.