Graphic designer spends hundreds of hours 'decluttering' Tube map

By Megan White

A graphic designer has undertaken a radical redesign of the London Underground map – spending three years redrawing the lines and shaking up its colour scheme.

Luke Carvill spent hundreds of hours on his version of the iconic Harry Beck design, painstakingly rearranging the stations into a more user-friendly visual.

He used the Overground as an oval frame, encompassing zone 1, and changed the way the lines were coloured to correspond with their train frequency.

Former Londoner Mr Carvill, who now lives in Birmingham, said: “Back when I lived in London I thought the Tube and rail map was a little cluttered, especially to tourists or new Londoners, which is a shame because it's the only map that paints a complete picture of London's travel options, not just the mostly north-of-the-river TFL services.

A mock-up of how the redesigned map would look on a Tube train (Luke Carvill/@LukeCarvillEtc)

“I wanted to make Central London clearer as the map is mostly relied on by tourists, who tend to start or end their journey in zones 1 and 2. I expanded these areas and framed them with an oval Overground. 

“I also looked at the visual hierarchy of the lines, solid colour for TFL and solid colour with white rectangles inside for National Rail is the current arrangement, the problem is someone could look at the map and think Overground services are comparable to Central Line services. 

Graphic designer Luke spent hundreds of hours on the redesign (Luke Carvill/@LukeCarvillEtc)

“So for the busier tube services I stuck with a solid colour, the less frequent TFL services such as the Overground and DLR got a lighter pastel colour with a darker border, and the somewhat infrequent National Rail services are shown as a hollow line with just a coloured border. 

“This draws the eye towards the most regular service and subconsciously helps suggest the fastest option.”

The redesign shows more services than the traditional Tube map (Luke Carvill/@LukeCarvillEtc)

Despite already having spent hours poring over the map, Mr Carvill said he still needs to “implement disabled access, the riverboat services and maybe the cycle superhighways.”

He added: “The biggest challenge has been finding the time to do it! I've really enjoyed working on this but when you spend too many evenings trying to get multiple lines to pass under a white blob in a somewhat graceful way you start to question your sanity.

“I think maybe I've stretched the geography a bit too far, South London is incredibly condensed at the moment and quite a few liberties are taken with North London's geography.

“I was following Beck's example by prioritising line connections over line location but I'd like to strike a better balance in my next attempt. 

The traditional TfL Tube map (TfL)

“I'd be interested to see new designs, I think Beck's original is one of the best pieces of graphic design in history but the network has expanded greatly since then and it's getting a bit cramped, maybe it's time for a rethink?

“It would be nice to see some non-TFL services included - Thameslink was on the map until 1999, it runs directly through central London and can be quite useful, yet it gets left off while the cable car stays on.

“I understand they don't want to show competing services in their map but it was probably quite useful back in the 90's.”

“I think I started trying to redesign the map about 3 years ago, but this is only my second completed map and I think I've been working on this one on and off for around a year. I might take a little break before I start working on the next redesign.”