Berlin Transit Map -- now with pleasing Curves
April 15, 2019 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Pasha Omelekhin experimented with the Berlin Transit Map Design. A detailed case study shows which considerations went into the new design.
posted by katta (29 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Hold shit. The Ringbahn isn't a circle, it's a dog!
posted by frimble at 6:00 AM on April 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

From the Q&A
Is it an official map?
Not yet. First, we need to know if people like it. Download, print, and use the map, share the information about it with your friends, write posts on the social media—then it will become an official one.
So as neat and as well thought out as it is, this looks like somebody's pet project rather than an official redesign.

I've never been to Berlin, however, I find the current map, with its straight lines an easier concept to take in, compared to the curvier lines of the proposed change. Maybe I'm just used to the London map.
posted by jontyjago at 6:20 AM on April 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this is a project by Pasha Omelekhin. Not real clear what its relationship to the Berlin S-Bahn is.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:24 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Everyone loves the classic London Tube map, but it becomes a sort of Procrustean bed of geography, something that gets superimposed on every city regardless of the physical reality. Here's a more geographically-accurate Underground map, for example.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:24 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

The new map is less of a gateway for the Hounds of Tindalos, it must be said.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:33 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Comparing that with the 2019 official map on the same page, I have to say, I prefer the official version. The sweeping curves might be aesthetically appealing but they don't seem orderly or easy to understand -- the effect is too tangled, like trying to sort out strands of spaghetti. The official version of the map is more squared off but that seems more systemic and navigable. Plus, the increased font size makes the whole map seem very busy and intimidating. The new map might be prettier and might even ultimately be better, but if they were both available and I had to pick one to use to navigate, my first instinct would be to reach for the official map.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:59 AM on April 15, 2019

The U55 hasn't been linked to the U5 yet? They were digging the new line when I was last in Berlin several years ago.
posted by acb at 7:00 AM on April 15, 2019

The U55 hasn't been linked to the U5 yet? They were digging the new line when I was last in Berlin several years ago.

The new airport was probably also "almost done" then... .
posted by Slothrup at 7:07 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Maybe I'm just used to the London map.

The London map moved towards its more rigid (easier to follow) design when Harry Beck understood that if you're underground you don't need to understand the geography of the terrain above you while you travel.

It looks like the design of the Berlin maps (1930s - present) followed a similar journey, so this seems like a backwards step to me.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:11 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Attractive! Not to be over-looked if travel send you to Berlin are the two BVG apps, one to buy tickets (you get a QR code on your phone) and the other to find connections and travel times and - most hilariously - a real-time depiction of where trains, busses, trams, ferries are on their routes. (Frankly, I find this as much fun as telling my kids famous-person-X is Canadian.)
posted by From Bklyn at 7:13 AM on April 15, 2019

Halloween Jack I like that Underground map way better! I've been to London a few times and I still have no idea where things are in relation to each other because I moved around the city primarily by Tube.
posted by twilightlost at 7:14 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

This post needs to be edited; Berlin definitely did not redesign their transit map, and this one would not be suitable. I do appreciate his explanation and history of Berlin designs though, it's a thoughtful attempt. And more practical than this highly stylized circular map.

BVG has lots of maps of course. Their full geographic map is a thing of beauty. It's not as good online, but they have a print version customized at every U-bahn, S-bahn, and tram stop (not to mention many busses) that's incredibly clear and readable. And huge. I never managed to buy a print of one and still regret it.

No, the new U5 line across the middle of Berlin isn't done yet. In 2017 they were saying done by the end of 2020. It's good that Berlin is continuing to invest in transit though. They've also modernized and extended the tram network that was the backbone of East Berlin transit, it's my favorite way to get around the city. The speed and comfort of a train with a view from the city streets.
posted by Nelson at 7:25 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

> somebody's pet project

> The Ringbahn isn't a circle, it's a dog!

It all makes sense now!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:30 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know it is ancient history, but I would like the Berlin Wall on the map to give an idea of how dividing a city with a extensive s-bahn is crazy.
posted by davebarnes at 7:50 AM on April 15, 2019

I like it a lot. Last summer when I was in Berlin I was totally mixed up by the Berlin map layout and how the city was actually laid out.

If I had this map I would have felt a lot more connected to where I was in the city while transiting.
posted by nikaspark at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2019

Just for fun, download the PDF and open it in Illustrator. It's all vector, just begging amendment.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

@nelson that BVG map is incredible and after I first saw it in a U-Bahn station I searched the Internet high and low looking for a print version.
posted by nikaspark at 7:55 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Come for the curved lines, stay for the shade thrown at “German precision”.
posted by acb at 7:58 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's lots of transit maps from divided Berlin. This article has good images of both West and East maps and this is a slightly different western map. As the linked article notes the S-Bahn was still available to western passengers (with a complicated set of security restrictions) but was boycotted because it was operated by a DDR company.

As for modern maps, here's a map of the old wall vis-a-vis modern Berlin and its transit. This custom Google Map is useful for detail, too. All that being said one thing I appreciated from my time spent in Berlin is how little time is spent by locals thinking about the location of the old wall. It's important history of course, and memorialized appropriately (particularly the people murdered for trying to cross it.) And you can generally still work out where it was by looking for various architectural clues. But Berlin as a city has moved on, the wall has been gone longer than it stood. Vorwärts!

nikaspark: the BVG print maps are for sale at the BVG store, like for 30€. I just never got my act together to get one.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

There's something about transit maps and airline tickets that really brings out the 'why was I not consulted' in graphic designers.
posted by echo target at 8:32 AM on April 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Not a single mention of actual usability or accessibility tests.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

One thing that the current map does well is delineate where zones are located, which decides how much your ticket will cost. This map redesign does not do this clearly.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:41 AM on April 15, 2019

Mother of Dragons, this gave me a shock! I live in Berlin comfortably isolated from German news and media, but surely even I couldn't have missed something so major? Couldn't find reference to it on the U-Bahn website or anything.


The lines are pretty, but the number of people who care about the "dog's head" or curve radii has to be TINY. Please god.

Any effort to improve accessibility, in this case legi-/visibility has to be welcomed, the public transport companies are BAD at this.

The waterways shouldn't be shown though, how confusing.

With just "please help crowdvertise" powering it, I think this labour of love will remain a gimmick.
posted by runincircles at 10:26 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Fixed the link description to show the design is from Pasha Omelekhin, by OP request!
posted by taz (staff) at 10:30 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

It is easier to find Überdenken Beanplatz Station on the new map, so that’s a plus.
posted by snofoam at 10:54 AM on April 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

Wow! This would have helped me navigate Berlin so much easier. Showing the waterways is amazing, I constantly used them as a reference point. I find the old angular map hard to read. Do other aphantasiacs feel the same? Organic shapes fit into my space-sense much easier than sharp snaps.
posted by aw jeez at 11:07 AM on April 15, 2019

It is easier to find Überdenken Beanplatz Station on the new map, so that’s a plus.

"flagged as fantastic"

Seriously. Brilliant :-)
posted by nikaspark at 11:18 AM on April 15, 2019

Harry Beck got it dead right. Underground maps are to help you navigate and quickly orient yourself whilst on the underground. This is no improvement, indeed to my eyes much worse, and a textbook example of form over function. You want a tourist map then go and buy one.
posted by epo at 12:01 PM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

It is easier to find Überdenken Beanplatz Station on the new map, so that’s a plus.

Böhnplatz, surely?
posted by acb at 1:57 AM on April 16, 2019

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