Map contest winners, part 1: The clean, contemporary design
1,304 people voted in our map contest, and our jury has made their choices. Thanks so much to all 17 people who submitted maps, everyone who voted, and to all of our jury members.
The consensus among readers differed in some interesting ways from the jury's picks, but one map placed highly on both lists. The #1 choice among readers, and the #2 choice for the jury, was Map C, by graphic designer Cameron Booth:
This one got 246 first place votes. In the instant-runoff voting, it remained on top through each round and ended up with 471 votes to 410 for the second place map.
The jury liked Booth's map's "generally clean feeling" and the way "shading rivers and parks distinguishes them from rail lines and makes the map appear more contemporary, without drastically changing the old map."
In his submission, Booth wrote,
With the addition of the Silver Line and new peak services, the thick, chunky lines of the old diagram just aren't going to work anymore. This is the chance to create something entirely new and start with a clean slate, not an adaptation of a 30-year-old design.The jury didn't share Booth's view on the horizontal station labels. They said that "keeping all station names horizontal loses ordinal clarity when the lines run east-west," like the names from L'Enfant to Stadium-Armory, where someone might miss the two stations whose labels appear on the opposite side of the line from the others.
On this diagram, the route lines have been slimmed down to fit in the new lines without sacrificing the details of the city like the rivers and the National Mall. All labels are now set horizontally for easy reading, with no station names crossing or touching route lines at all—
a huge improvement in legibility over the haphazard angled labels of the old diagram.
Line names are clearly denoted at each terminus to assist color-blind travelers (who see most of the diagram as shades of muddy brown), and a comprehensive legend at the bottom of the diagram clearly explains all services shown.
They also noted that the symbol used to connect Farragut North and West might make people think there's a real tunnel, rather than an out-of-system transfer.
One of the innovations the jury did appreciate was the parking symbols. They wrote, "Perhaps our least favorite feature of the current map are the car icons that indicate parking; several maps replaced them with clear but less obtrusive 'P' symbols." Booth called the current icon the "boxy Volvo" and was one of those to change it to the well-known blue circle with a white 'P.'
Jurors also split on some of the features. Booth used a separate line with a variation on the color to show the special rush-hour services, like a darker yellow for the Franconia-Greenbelt service. Some liked this, while others did not. One juror said, "Anything that makes it look like there are different, extra lines is just confusing."
The jury also didn't come to consensus on whether to give DC its own color, nor on the way Booth used small gaps in the line to denote stations instead of the more familiar small black-bordered circles. The DC coloration would likely be controversial with Metro Board members, given that the system is supposed to be a mostly equal partnership between DC, Maryland and Virginia.
The debate over the circles points out a fundamental question in these maps: how much to stay with the well-known design elements, or depart more radically. On this, the jury didn't always agree, and their consensus often didn't match that of riders. We'll look at that, and their #1 choice, tomorrow.
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