05 September 2011

[map_design] Cameron Booth Gets Portland's Rail Map To Grow Up

2685.While i like the TriMet rail system map and have grown to like the new TriMet empire style, it has not been lost on me that, just as the old style (which I still miss) was destined to give way eventually, this style will too, eventually, give way to another look. And I've seen the direction it ought to go.

Cameron Booth likes designing maps, and he's come up with a brilliant take on the combined Portland area rail display that makes the current look rather … well, provincial. A bit of it is at right for illustration's purposes, and the rest of his work is at his blog here. Go there, because that's where all the closeups are.

The thing I enjoy the most of it is that this map feels like it could stand, style-wise, next to the great transit maps of the world - the NYC subway, the London Underground. By eschewing the ever-present 45-degree angle, using instead 60- and 30-degree angles, he's hit upon something the other map doesn't have … a high degree of congruence with the way the Portland street and ground grid actually looks, so it's easy to picture where you might actually be in relation to the reality, but it allows it to be schematic enough to clearly show the system in a usable way.

The choice of type face is quietly sophisticated, and the choice of using a dark background brings a sort of drama to it and lets the network stand out from the supporting background. Nice touch.

The real innovation about the map is that it shows all passenger rail services here in Portland - unlike the TriMet Rail System map, which reduces the Portland Streetcar line to an unannotated line that kind of fades into the background. Showing the Amtrak lines gives a sense of a link into the greater world. To top it off, it includes proposed or under-construction lines and stops extending to Vancouver and Milwaukie.

The whole effect is very big-boy, very sophisticated, information-rich without being cluttered … very grown-up. And very well-done.

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