Students Staff

18 February 2010

Exhibition presents alternatives to iconic Underground map

An alternative to the London Underground map

Since revolutionising map design in 1933, Henry Beck’s iconic map of the London Underground has set the standard for the mapping of transport networks worldwide but is this template always a success?

That is the subject of an exhibition of map designs, by University of Essex researcher Dr Maxwell Roberts, which opens at South Essex College of Further and Higher Education, Southend, on Friday 26 February.

Underground Maps Unravelled: Explorations in Information Design explores the use of Beck’s basic design rules: replacing chaotic, twisting routes with straight lines, horizontal, vertical or diagonals at 45 degrees only. It also looks at whether today’s complex transport networks require fresh approaches.

Dr Roberts, of Essex’s Department of Psychology, presents a collection of his own work: maps that break all the rules, maps that are easier to use, maps that teach us about good design, maps that challenge our preconceptions, and maps that are just intended to be decorative.

He explained: ‘With today’s emphasis on using public transport, and the ever-increasing complexity of networks around the world, it is vital that designers create the best possible maps. All too often, the general public are faced with designs that are poor quality, off-putting, and perhaps barely useable. We need to take a good look at whether fresh approaches are required.’

With expertise in human reasoning and intelligence, Dr Roberts has, in recent years turned his attention to graphic design and the presentation of wayfinding information. This exhibition follows the 2008 re-print of his book, Underground Maps After Beck which surveys the major changes made to the well-known map, and the reasoning and political background that led to them.

Underground Maps Unravelled will be at the Campus Gallery, South Essex College, in Luker Road, Southend, SS1 1ND from 26 February to 8 March. The exhibition is open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday and 9am-4.30pm on Saturdays. Admission is free.


Notes to editors
You are invited to send a photographer/reporter/crew to a private press launch of the exhibition between 2pm and 5pm on 25 February.
For further information about the exhibition, contact Dr Roberts, telephone: 01206 873797 or 873798, or e-mail: Alternatively, contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or e-mail:

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