Soon after Mark Noad’s vision of the London Tube Map was viewed, debate ensued about whether the integrity of the original diagram was misused to create a hybrid between the original information as a concept of the underground train system and its pathways and the concept of a geographically accurate map. With a slightly more condensed font style, the map is intended to be more legible, especially on mobile devices. Eminent typographer and designer Erik Spiekermann headed the debate stating that Harry Beck original depiction of the Tube was not a map at all, “it’s a diagram. Not meant to show geographic relationships, but connections.”
Therein lies the schism between the concept of depiction and illustration. Fastco Design writer John Pavlus discusses the value of the designer’s intent – to produce something of use – rather than the initial concept of the first drawing. Most users of the train system diagram are likely to call it a map. The visual information implies that it will be used to guide travelers to particular destinations, thereby making it useful as a map. The initial intent of the information becomes irrelevant when its use and usefulness comes into play. Did Mark Noad achieve the clarification that the Beck’s original diagram was lacking by adding elements of a geographical map into it?
The question that Pavlus concludes with is how does the designer extend his or her role beyond solving problems; how does a designed artifact continue to evolve with each iteration, engage the public and continue to develop new and better uses?
(via Fastco Design)