One Designer’s Ambitious Quest to Standardize the World’s Subway Maps

Slate’s design blog.
April 9 2014 2:08 PM

One Designer’s Ambitious Quest to Standardize the World’s Subway Maps

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A redesigned map of Moscow's metro by Jug Cerovic.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

Serbia-born, Paris-based architect Jug Cerovic moonlights as a map designer who has created a series of standardized subway maps of cities around the world.

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Cerovic has redesigned 12 subway maps from around the world.

Screenshot courtesy of Jug Cerovic

His INAT series of maps are meant to fit in your pocket and be easy to read and use: They enlarge dense city centers to make multiple lines and connecting stations more visible. A standard set of symbols is used for all maps and all lines are either vertical, horizontal, or at a 45 degree angle, most featuring no more than five bends.

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All the lines in Cerovic's maps are either vertical, horizontal, or at a 45 degree angle.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

Cerovic uses shapes to indicate symbolic forms of various cities—circles for Moscow and Paris, rectangles for Beijing and Shanghai, a stadium shape for Berlin and Seoul, South Korea, parallelograms for London and regularly spaced straight parallel lines in gridded street pattern cities like New York and Mexico City.

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The Beijing map is made up of rectangles.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

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Cerovic told me in an email that he started by making maps for his native city of Belgrade, Serbia. “Since the city lacked a legible and useful map I designed a complete set of maps, detailed and schematic,” he said. “Then I tried to draw the Paris Métro map. Since I live in Paris and know the network pretty well, I wasn't happy with the current official map and wanted one that suits me better. While working on Paris and then Madrid (for the same reasons) I developed a nomenclature, a standard that I then applied to other cities. And it worked! I ended up drawing 12 of the most complex Métro networks in the world.”

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The standard Cerovic created with his Paris and Madrid maps was then applied to the 10 other cities.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

Cerovic said he was unable to break through the bureaucratic red tape required to convince city governments to implement his maps, so he decided to complete an initial set of maps and publish them online. “Now that INAT maps are ready I would very much like the concerned cities to adopt them,” he said.

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His map of the London Underground is based around a circle.

Courtesy Jug Cerovic

What does INAT stand for?

“Inat is a Serbian word quite difficult to translate, a mix of pride and stubbornness,” he said.

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Cerovic chose to redesign maps for some of the most complex subway systems in the world.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

Maps of a dozen cities are available for purchase in three sizes, and he hopes to develop a mobile phone app (for now, the maps are zoomable online). “They are meant to be useful first of all,” Cerovic said, adding that “since they are also visually pleasant you can also hang them on a wall or send them as a postcard.”

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Cerovic hopes that one day city governments and transit authorities will adopt his maps.

Courtesy of Jug Cerovic

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