Travel by public transport anywhere in the world, and the chances are that sooner or later a map will be encountered in which the routes have been simplified and turned into a diagram, using just straight lines – horizontal, vertical, and diagonals at 45-degrees. Octolinear schematic maps are widespread, intended to make people’s lives easier. Furthermore, as suggested, for example, by Nöllenburg & Wolff (2011), octolinearity is an “essential ingredient for tidy and easy-to-read metro map layouts” (p. 627).
In this presentation, I will discuss the criteria necessary for effective visual information design, and suggest that the optimum rules for a schematic map depend on the structure of the network, and that octolinearity may sometimes be inappropriate. To illustrate this, I will describe usability studies in which people’s planning performance is measured objectively using different map versions. I will also show how an exploration of design, in which rules are manipulated systematically, can highlight issues when applied to the London and Berlin networks.
Maxwell Roberts completed a BSc and PhD in psychology at the University of Nottingham, UK, and has lectured at the University of Essex since 1993. His research interests have included reasoning and intelligence, but now focus on schematic maps. He creates challenging designs and tests their usability and aesthetics. He has authored two books on maps, and his work has been exhibited in Germany, Austria, the USA, and the UK.