Beck's London Underground Map ….. continued….

Harry Beck was an electrical draughtsman and produced drawings of electrical circuits; circuits used in the running of the Underground itself but his training had given him knowledge of the symbols and techniques used to depict wiring, diodes, resistors, junctions and valves.  He obviously knew of the colour coding used on resistors and capacitors and had the  considerable draughting skills to produce concise drawings ~ this was after all his job with London Underground, and as he lived and worked in London he had experience of the tube system itself.  Familiarity with a design 'need' is usually a tremendous help when it comes to finding solutions to a problem and Beck's home in the north London suburb of Finchley was far enough away from the city that he would have frequently used the underground-rail system.


The design of a new vacuum cleaner or a new mobile phone involves two distinct requirements.  There is a need for the item to function well and as more products become available on the market, there is a greater need for the item to appeal aesthetically to the users. The London Underground Map achieved a level of functionality in compressing a large amount of information into a simple and useable presentation. The central are of the map contained a larger number of stations and interconnections than the peripheral parts of the system.  As far as the 'user' was concerned there should be no need to relate the distance between two points on the map if the main intention was simply to facilitate the traveller getting there.  Having accepted this 'limitation' the task of presenting the complex interconnections within the system became easier….more space could be allocated to that zone with far more information contained within it.  His map has the clarity and appearance of a wiring

Form / Aesthetics

Beck's use of a small number of symbols limited the need for a complex 'key' to the map, allowing the second requirement ~ that of aesthetic appeal  to be achieved too.  Frequently too little concern is given to the inter-relation of Form and Function ~ The simple and effective presentation of factual information in a clean and