Look! A new version of the London Tube & Rail map! This story isn’t about Brexit!

Mmmmm curvy. Image: Luke Carvill.

It’s bad, the world, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t want to overstate this, but on this specific day, at this particular point in history, the world is completely bloody awful.

So here’s a new take on the tube map to talk about. Tube map redesigns are my happy place, and don’t you judge me because by clicking this article you’ve implicitly admitted that they’re yours, too.

This one, actually of the London Tube & Rail Map, comes from Luke Carvill, who, like many a graphic designer before him, is using it to show off his skills.

Click to expand.

Here’s what he says about it:

“I think Harry Beck’s London tube map is one of the greatest pieces of graphic design in history, but he had no idea how large the network would become. I feel the current map is somewhat cluttered and intimidating to those unfamiliar with it. My redesign focused on simplicity, balance, and beauty.

“The map is mostly used by tourists, who start and/or end most of their journeys in Zones 1 and 2, in order to make the busiest part of the network easier to spot and read, I gave Central London a wide amount of space and framed in an Overground loop.”

Those are indeed the most obvious aspects of his redesign. I’m not entirely sold on the vastly bigger central London, whose acres of white space between lines ends up making the suburbs look cramped in places (the route to Gatwick Airport, included because it takes Oyster cards, ends up bending awkwardly round as if it heads west, not south).

Click to expand.

But turning the London Overground routes via Clapham and Highbury & Islington into a loop around central London is very pleasing indeed. And replacing the ugly grey shading to represent fare zones with tiny numbers is such an elegant solution that it remains a mystery why TfL has never done it.

Another minor detail of which I’m a big fan is the effort to map goes to show that Blackfriars station has an entrance on the South Bank:

Click to expand.

Carvill follows designers past in using bold, solid colours to represent the tube, and lighter, hollow lines in pastel shades to show National Rail. This is meant to “draw the attention of the eye towards the busier services”, and mostly works, although inevitably there are exceptions (far more mainline services at Wimbledon, say, then there are tube ones at Roding Valley). The map also uses slightly different colours for different Overground or tram services, to make it clear whether direct services do or don’t exist.

It’s not perfect. Like pretty much every other designer ever, he’s struggled to come up with a way of showing the way certain Elizabeth line stations will connect to multiple tube ones, which seems to bolster my case for renaming those stations. And the Bank/Monument interchange is something of a mess. But on balance, I’m a fan.

There. Wasn’t that more fun than reading about Brexit for a while? You can find more tube mappy goodness here.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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On boarded-up storefronts, muralists offer words of hope

The murals on closed storefronts aim "to end ugly wall syndrome." (Courtesy of Beautify)

In Los Angeles, Melrose Avenue has a new mural that reads: “Cancel plans, not humanity.”

It’s an artwork by Corie Mattie, a street artist who kindly reminds us of our togetherness under quarantine. She and many other artists are putting murals up across the US as part of the Back to the Streets campaign, which aims to add some color to the streets – specifically on boarded up storefronts and abandoned streets that feel deserted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The goal is to bring some beauty to the streets while everything is boarded up – “to end ugly wall syndrome,” says project founder Evan Meyer. “It’s to get people to care about their communities, be part of the process.” 


Many of the murals are painted on plywood panels that cover the entryways to independent businesses that have shut down during the pandemic. The project aims to prevent a sense of decay, especially as some businesses start to open back up while their neighbours remain closed.

“We need to protect our streets from becoming sad places quickly, when places are abandoned and don’t feel like they have love or life,” says Meyer, who is also the CEO of Beautify, a company that connects artists with places to make murals. Among the murals made during the pandemic, one at a department store says “Togetherness,” while another says: “You can’t quarantine love.”

“We’re seeing messages like hope, positivity and community,” Meyer says. “More than ever, it’s a time for community.”


(Courtesy of Beautify)

With artist-led projects in L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Pasadena, and others, the goal is to get 1,000 murals up across America. Murals are also being painted in small towns in Iowa, like Council Bluffs and Dubuque, and an earlier mural in New York City’s Rockaway Beach was created in 2014 with the same goal of bringing some life to neglected buildings that needed renovation after Hurricane Sandy

“We need to protect our streets from becoming sad places with broken windows, tagging and crime,” says Meyer. “A lot can happen if a place feels like it’s unwatched.” 

Los Angeles councilmember David Ryu endorsed the initiative in a recent blog post, saying it has helped boost morale on the streets of L.A. “When we brighten blighted walls, we improve neighborhoods,” he wrote. “It’s critical to have more business owners enlist their walls here to bring some much needed love and recognition to their establishment and their neighborhood.” 

The effort stems from a sister project called Beautify Earth, which has helped address a litter problem in Santa Monica’s commercial district. In addition to a cleanup force, the project has painted more than 100 murals on walls, dumpsters, utility boxes and garbage cans across the city.

On the Beautify website, artists can find business improvement districts, real estate developers, landlords and business owners who want to see something on their empty walls. Each artist who gets a commissioned wall through the Beautify website is paid 78% of the stipend, and Beautify takes a 22% administration fee. 

Meyer says he often explains to business owners that art can help their business.

“A lot of people have white empty wall space on their liquor stores, condos, park walls, even residential spaces,” says Meyer, adding that many are afraid to put something on their walls. “It’s not a liability, it’s an asset. Art protects walls, it is a graffiti abatement strategy.”


(Courtesy of Beautify)

Beautify isn’t alone in its field. Among the other cities that have similar mural projects, ArtPlace America has supported over 200 art murals across the US. Wynwood Walls, a public art project in Miami spearheaded by local developer Tony Goldman, has helped create a popular public art hotspot with murals by artists Shepard Fairey and Ron English. 

Chicago’s city government, too, has publicly funded over 500 murals through its Percent-for-Art program, which pays artists to paint walls on municipal buildings. A grassroots street art project in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, has artists painting murals in violent and marginalised neighbourhoods. Similar crime prevention ventures have been initiated in Topeka, Kansas, in St. Louis, Missouri, and in Toronto, Canada, which has placed over 140 murals across the city over the past decade. 


Artist Ruben Rojas has painted murals saying "You Can't Quarantine Love" in several spots across Santa Monica, California. (Courtesy of Beautify)

One artist working with Beautify’s project is Ruben Rojas, who is overwhelmed by the response to his mural, “You Can’t Quarantine Love,” which has been painted in several spots across Santa Monica and beyond.

“Every day, I see the shares, photos of my murals, amazing captions and direct messages from folks that are truly heartwarming,” Rojas says. “I’ve seen this particular mural go around the world with ‘thank you’ messages from Johannesburg, Germany, and Italy. It really is humbling.”

Meyer says that kind of social media engagement shows how a mural can turn a plain old wall into a landmark. 

“Murals get seen,” he says. “People take photos and share them on social media. Nobody takes photos of your ugly white wall. Murals are the story of the local community.”

Nadja Sayej is an arts and culture journalist based in New York City.