Elena Paunova

Communication Design, BFA



My main issue with the current map is the visual clutter and noise, which at times make the map not only aesthetically unpleasing but also impossible to utilize. My main objective was to clean the map from all that noise and make it user-friendlier, less visually threatening and at the end make the user connects with the system and read it in a personal way. For that purpose in the initial stages of the design, I adopted a “divide and conquer” system, in which I divided all the levels of the current map: lines, stations, geography, and type into individual layers, so I can study them separately. After getting to know the system, I found out that I need a more substantial basis for solving the map than pure aesthetics and my personal design preferences. I researched briefly the science behind behavioral wayfinding and how we create and access cognitive maps out of reality. This finalized my system by turning the map into a landmark-based map.

Levels of information
Stations — Transfers — Station name — Rush hour stations — Off-rush hour stations -Terminals — Landmarks — Geography

Role of landmarks
According to wayfinding, we utilize landmarks to anchor ourselves to the objective reality and to direct our movement. Landmarks can be local (only apply to a specific person) or global. The NYC map reflects global landmarks.

Role of geography
The geography reflected on the map is systematized; only streets, which connect stations, are drawn with few exceptions for the purpose of composition. The purpose of the geography is to comfort the user and give them relative positioning and not to guide them above ground. Since the map is not entirely geographically accurate (the boroughs have been modified to accommodate the stations) the streets are not labeled as to not mislead the user as well as for the purpose of keeping in, the type relevant to the system only. Manhattan is an exception as it is based on a grid system; the street labels are extended on the side as to reflect the grid and to clean the map from unnecessary repetition of the information.

The type has been used to “stabilize” the stops and to an extend replace the physical lines. A system of alternation between the directions of the type was adopted to ease the movement of the eye whenever it was possible.

Stations — Express vs Local
Each train has its own “line” and each stop is reflected on the map.

Rush hour vs off rush hour
The diamond was used to reflect rush hours as it imitates the real signage and what one would see on the train itself. For off-rush hour, the station has been made hollow and was assigned a percentage of the original opacity to make it easier to distinguish, in case a quick acknowledgement of whether the train stops or not is needed.

Transfers and terminals
The transfers are kept as on the original map with a small modification, as I believe they were working. The terminal utilizes a square as to make the last stops quick and easy to see, in case the user have a trouble with orientation and deciphering the direction of movement of the train.

No crossover stations
No crossover stations have been assigned a grey outline as to “lock” the station and visually interrupt, lag the movement between the next and previous stations, in case the user misses his or her stop and quickly needs to decide where to transfer.

Biggest challenge
The user would need more time to get used to the system and the lack of lines may cause an initial doubt.

Possible solution
The color scheme, the landmarks, parks and overall visual clarity/informational density may compensate for the greater response time and at first, at the very least emerge the user with its difference, giving him/her enough time to learn to read and trust the system. Hopefully turning the initial disadvantage into an advantage.

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