Animated GIFs Show How Subway Maps of Berlin, New York, Tokyo & London Compare to the Real Geography of Those Great Cities

You can't make a perfectly accurate map, as Jorge Luis Borges so succinctly told us, without making it the exact same size and shape as the land it portrays. But given the utter uselessness of such an enormous piece of paper (which so frustrated the citizens of the imaginary empire in Borges' story that, "not without some pitilessness," they tossed theirs into the desert), no mapmaker would ever want to. A more compact map is a more useful one; unfortunately, a more compact map is also, by its very nature, a less accurate one.

New York

The same rule applies to maps of all kinds, and especially to transit maps, quite possibly the most useful specialized maps we consult today. They show us how to navigate cities, and yet their clean, bold lines, sometimes turning but never wavering, hardly represent those cities — subject as they are to variations in terrain and density, as well as centuries of unplannably organic growth — with geographical faithfulness. One can't help but wonder just how each urban transit map, some of them beloved works of design, strikes the usefulness-faithfulness balance.

London

Living in Seoul, I've grown used to the city's standard subway map. I thus get a kick out of scrutinizing the more geographically accurate one, which overlays the train lines onto an existing map of the city, posted on some station platforms. It reveals the truth that some lines are shorter than they look on the standard map, some are much longer, and none cut quite as clean a path through the city as they seem to. At Twisted Sifter you'll find a GIF gallery of 15 standard subway maps that morph into more geographically faithful equivalents, a vivid demonstration of just how much transit map designers need to twist, squeeze, and simplify an urban landscape to produce something legible at a glance.

Tokyo

All of those animations, just five of which you see in this post, come from the subreddit Data Is Beautiful, a realm populated by enthusiasts of the visual display of quantitative information — enthusiasts so enthusiastic that many of them create innovative data visualizations like these by themselves. According to their creations, subway maps, like that of New York City's venerable system, do relatively little to distort the city; others, like Tokyo's, look nearly unrecognizable when made to conform to geography.

Austin

Even the maps of new and incomplete transit networks do a number on the real shape and direction of their paths: the map of Austin, Texas' Capital MetroRail, for instance, straightens a somewhat zig-zaggy northeast-southwest track into a single horizontal line. It may take a few generations before Austin's "system" develops into one extensive and complex enough to inspire one of the great transit maps (the ranks, for example, of "The Wonderground Map of London Town"). But I wouldn't count out the possibility: the more fully cities realize their public-transit potential, the more opportunity opens up for the advancement of the subway mapmaker's art.

See all 15 of the subway GIFs at Twisted Sifter.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch a Mesmerizing Hourglass Filled with 1,250,000 “Nanoballs” (Created by the Designer of the Apple Watch)

Apple Watch designer Marc Newson has created an hourglass that stands about 6 inches tall, measures 5 inches wide, and features 1,249,996 tiny spheres called "nanoballs," each made of stainless steel and covered with a fine copper coating. It takes 10 minutes for the nanoballs to pour through the glass, from first to last. The action looks pretty mesmerizing, to say the least.

You can pick up your very own hand-made hourglass for $12,000. But if your pockets don't run quite that deep, you can settle for watching the time piece in the video above. Get more information on the Newson hourglass here.

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via The Verge

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A Three-Minute Introduction to Buckminster Fuller, One of the 20th Century’s Most Productive Design Visionaries

Architect, inventor, theorist, and all-around fount of ideas Buckminster Fuller came up with many new things, though most of us associate him with one above all: geodesic domes. Those distinctive hemispheric structures built out of strong triangular parts, having gone in and out of vogue over the decades, most recently reappeared in the zeitgeist as the type of lodging promised to the attendees of the ill-conceived Fyre Festival — an ultra-luxury market-targeted disaster not representative, safe to say, of the world Fuller spent his entire career trying to realize. His vision of a future for "Spaceship Earth," as he called it, drove him to create all he created, from new maps to new houses to new cars to new sleeping methods. But what did he base that vision on?

"Fuller's philosophy could be best summarized as being a social thinker, believing that humanity's survival is contingent upon how it manages Spaceship Earth and the resources it contains," says the narrator of the three-minute Prosocial Progress Foundation primer above, "and that creating abundance whilst doing little to no harm to the environment would help to alleviate a lot of the problems in the world today."


With every project he emphasized "systems thinking," or thinking premised on "the idea that the world is an interconnected system with interconnected problems, and that a way to solve these problems would be to call upon collective action." We'd all have to work together, in his view, to solve the problems we suffer together.

That notion may strike us as utopian even today, and indeed, most of Fuller's inventions only saw limited application during his lifetime. But the label of utopian, which suggests a disregard for the rigors of reality, doesn't quite fit the man himself, so much concern did he have for practicalities like the efficient allocation of resources, quick construction and deployment, and ease of use. But given the dystopian terms we've increasingly come to use to describe events here on Spaceship Earth, maybe we need a Fuller-style practical utopianism now more than ever. If these three minutes have given you a taste for more of the details, have a look at Fuller's video lecture series Everything I Know — but make sure to clear 42 hours of your calendar first. The future of humanity may depend on it!

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Buckminster Fuller Creates an Animated Visualization of Human Population Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965

Sit back, relax, put on some music (I’ve found Chopin’s Nocturne in B major well-suited), and watch the video above, a silent data visualization by visionary architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller, “the James Brown of industrial design.” The short film from 1965 combines two of Fuller’s leading concerns: the exponential spread of the human population over finite masses of land and the need to revise our global perspective via the "Dymaxion map," in order “to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy,” as the Buckminster Fuller Institute writes, so that “we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.”

Though you may know it best as the name of a geodesic sphere at Disney’s Epcot Center, the term Spaceship Earth originally came from Fuller, who used it to remind us of our interconnectedness and interdependence as we share resources on the only vehicle we know of that can sustain us in the cosmos.


“We are all astronauts,” he wrote in his 1969 Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and yet we refuse to see the long-term consequences of our actions on our specialized craft: “One of the reasons why we are struggling inadequately today,” Fuller argued in his introduction, “is that we reckon our costs on too shortsighted a basis and are later overwhelmed with the unexpected costs brought about by our shortsightedness.”

Like all visionaries, Fuller thought in long spans of time, and he used his design skills to help others do so as well. His population visualization documents human growth from 1000 B.C.E. to Fuller’s present, at the time, of 1965. In the image above (see a larger version here), we have a graphic from that same year---made collaboratively with artist and sociologist John McHale---showing the “shrinking of our planet by man’s increased travel and communication speeds around the globe.” (It must be near microscopic by now.) Fuller takes an even longer view, looking at “the confluence of communication and transportation technologies,” writes Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard, "from 500,000 B.C.E. to 1965.”

Here Fuller combines his population data with the technological breakthroughs of modernity. Though he's thought of in some quarters as a genius and in some as a kook, Fuller demonstrated his tremendous foresight in seemingly innumerable ways. But it was in the realm of design that he excelled in communicating what he saw. “Pioneers of data visualization,” Fuller and McHale were two of “the first to chart long-term trends of industrialization and globalization.” Instead of becoming alarmed and fearful of what the trends showed, Fuller got to work designing for the future, fully aware, writes the Fuller Institute that “the planet is a system, and a resilient one.”

Fuller thought like a radically inventive engineer, but he spoke and wrote like a peacenik prophet, writing that a system of narrow specializations ensures that skill sets “are not comprehended comprehensively... or they are realized only in negative ways, in new weaponry or the industrial support only of war faring.” We’ve seen this vision of society played out to a frightening extent. Fuller saw a way out, one in which everyone on the planet can live in comfort and security without consuming (then not renewing) the Earth’s resources. How can this be done? You'll have to read Fuller's work to find out. Meanwhile, as his visualizations suggest, it’s best for us to take the long view---and give up on short-term rewards and profits---in our assessments of the state of Spaceship Earth.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Milton Glaser’s 10 Rules for Life & Work: The Celebrated Designer Dispenses Wisdom Gained Over His Long Life & Career

“None of us has really the ability to understand our path until it’s over,” the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser muses less than a minute into the above video.

The 86-year-old Glaser’s many contributions to pop culture---the  I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic portrait of a rainbow-haired Bob Dylan, DC Comics’ classic bullet logo---confer undeniable authority. To the outside eye, he seems to have a pretty firm handle on the path he's been traveling for lo these many decades. Aspirant designers would do well to give extra consideration to any advice he might share.

As would the rest of us.

His “Ten Things I Have Learned,” originally delivered as part of a talk to the AIGA---a venerable membership organization for design professionals---qualifies as solid life advice of general interest.


Yes, the Internet spawns bullet-pointed tips for better living the way spring rains yield mushrooms, but Glaser, a self-described “child of modernism” who's still a contender, does not truck in pithy Instagram-friendly aphorisms. Instead, his list is born of reflection on the various turns of a long and mostly satisfying creative career.

We’ve excerpted some of his most essential points below, and suggest that those readers who are still in training give special emphasis to number seven. Don't place too much weight on number nine until you’ve established a solid work ethic. (See number four for more on that.)

MILTON GLASER”S TEN RULES FOR WORK AND LIFE (& A BONUS JOKE ABOUT A RABBIT).

1. YOU CAN ONLY WORK FOR PEOPLE THAT YOU LIKE

Some years ago I realized that… all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client.

2. IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE NEVER HAVE A JOB

Here, Glaser quotes composer John CageNever have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. 

3. SOME PEOPLE ARE TOXIC AVOID THEM.

Glaser recommends putting a questionable companion to a gestalt therapy test. If, after spending time with that person “you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy, you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.”

4. PROFESSIONALISM IS NOT ENOUGH (or THE GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF THE GREAT)

Glaser concedes that a record of dependable excellence is something to look for in a brain surgeon or auto mechanic, but for those in the arts, “continuous transgression” is the quality to cultivate. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. 

5. LESS IS NOT NECESSARILY MORE

I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

6. STYLE IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED

Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often.

7. HOW YOU LIVE CHANGES YOUR BRAIN

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body…. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way…. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

8. DOUBT IS BETTER THAN CERTAINTY

One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise…. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable.

9. IT DOESN’T MATTER

Glaser credits essayist Roger Rosenblatt’s Rules for Aging (misidentifying the title as Aging Gracefully) with helping him articulate his philosophy here.  It doesn’t matter what you think. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.

10. TELL THE TRUTH

It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

BONUS JOKE

A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent, I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’’

Read Milton Glaser’s “Ten Things I Have Learned” in its entirety here.

via Kottke

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Every Page of Depero Futurista, the 1927 Futurist Masterpiece of Graphic Design & Bookmaking, Is Now Online

You can try to dismantle your e-reader, but you can't unscrew an eBook. Despite having cast his artistic mind, as did his fellow 20th-century Italian Futurists, forcefully into the world to come, could Fortunato Depero have imagined that such a question would arise in the 21st? The Trentino-born painter, writer, sculptor, and graphic designer, led a highly creative life, producing no work more enduring than the instantly recognizable Campari Soda bottle. But just last year, a group of enthusiasts successfully raised more than $250,000 on Kickstarter to bring back into print Depero's second-best-known creation: Depero Futurista, also known as "The Bolted Book."

Designed by Depero as "a kind of portable museum or calling card, a portfolio of his career to date — including paintings, sculptures, textile and architectural designs, theater and advertising work, wordplays, manifestoes, and reviews he received in many different languages," Depero Futurista, as described by the reprint project's web site, also shows off his "skills as a designer and typographical wizard." These impress as much in 2017 as they must have at the time of the book's first publication ninety years ago in Milan, and the binding method remains as distinctive: "Comprising 240 pages, the book is secured by two large industrial aluminum bolts that when removed allow for the pages to be removed, rearranged, or exhibited individually."

You may never have heard of Depero, but today's most respected designers certainly have, and some of them appear in the project's Kickstarter promo video giving testimonials not just to the importance of Depero's aesthetic achievements in general but The Bolted Book in particular. It offers a "bridge between the past and the future" in design, an innovative, ironic, and playful use of the "machine aesthetic," and evidence that "Depero, despite his idiosyncrasies, was one of the most creative of the Futurists." (It also, of course, holds the title of the first-ever book "bolted by two giant clasps.") But perhaps the most compelling comes from Stefan Sagmeister: "This book contains the favorite packaging of my favorite drink, Campari Soda. For this alone, it should be contributed at properly — Kickstarted."

Successfully Kickstarted, the new and 100 percent faithful reprint of Depero Futurista (whose few surviving originals sit mostly in institutional collections) should arrive in July of this year. Even if you can't get your hands on a real, bolted copy just yet, you can view each and every one of its pages on the reprint project's site. All the brilliance on display does make one regret that the Futurist movement ended with the tarnish of Fascism. But now that references to the latter seems to have re-entered the public conversation, maybe the time has come to bring back the vigorous, forward-looking artistic inventiveness of the former as a kind of countervailing inspiration.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Buckminster Fuller’s Map of the World: The Innovation that Revolutionized Map Design (1943)

Last week we brought you news of a world map purportedly more accurate than any to date, designed by Japanese architect and artist Hajime Narukawa. The map, called the AuthaGraph, updates a centuries-old method of turning the globe into a flat surface by first converting it to a cylinder. Winner of Japan’s Good Design Grand Award, it serves as both a brilliant design solution and an update to our outmoded conceptions of world geography.

But as some readers have pointed out, the AuthaGraph also seems to draw quite heavily on an earlier map made by one of the most visionary of theorists and designers, Buckminster Fuller, who in 1943 applied his Dymaxion trademark to the map you see above, which will likely remind you of his most recognizable invention, the Geodesic Dome, “house of the future.”


Whether Narukawa has acknowledged Fuller as an inspiration I cannot say. In any case, 73 years before the AuthaGraph, the Dymaxion Map achieved a similar feat, with similar motivations. As the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) points out, “The Fuller Projection Map is [or was] the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in the ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents.”

Fuller published his map in Life magazine, as a corrective, he said, “for the layman, engrossed in belated, war-taught lessons in geography…. The Dymaxion World map is a means by which he can see the whole world fairly at once.” Fuller, notes Kelsey Campell-Dollaghan at Gizmodo, "intended the Dymaxion World map to serve as a tool for communication and collaboration between nations.”

Fuller believed, writes BFI, that "given a way to visualize the whole planet with greater accuracy, we humans will be better equipped to address challenges as we face our common future aboard Spaceship Earth.” Was he naïve or ahead of his time?

We may have had a good laugh at a recent replica of Fuller's nearly undriveable, “scary as hell,” 1930 Dymaxion Car, one of his first inventions. Many of Fuller's contemporaries also found his work bizarre and impractical. Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker sums up the reception he often received for his “schemes,” which “had the hallucinatory quality associated with science fiction (or mental hospitals).” The commentary seems unfair.

Fuller’s influence on architecture, design, and systems theory has been broad and deep, though many of his designs only resonated long after their debut. He thought of himself as an “anticipatory design scientist,” rather than an inventor, and remarked, “if you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” In this sense, we must agree that the Dymaxion map was an unqualified success as an inspiration for innovative map design.

In addition to its possibly indirect influence on the AuthaGraph, Fuller’s map has many prominent imitators and sparked “a revolution in mapping,” writes Campbell-Dollaghan. She points us to, among others, the Cryosphere, further up, a Fuller map “arranged based on ice, snow, glaciers, permafrost and ice sheets”; to Dubai-based Emirates airline’s map showing flight routes; and to the “Googlespiel,” an interactive Dymaxion map built by Rehabstudio for Google Developer Day, 2011.

And, just above, we see the Dymaxion Woodocean World map by Nicole Santucci, winner of 2013’s DYMAX REDUX, an “open call to create a new and inspiring interpretation of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map.” You'll find a handful of other unique submissions at BFI, including the runner-up, Clouds Dymaxion Map, below, by Anne-Gaelle Amiot, an “absolutely beautiful hand-drawn depiction of a reality that is almost always edited from our maps: cloud patterns circling above Earth.”

via Gizmodo

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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