A design team, from Zero per Zero studio in Seoul, South Korea, has taken the idea a step further with an award-winning design solution and the creation of railway maps.

City Railway System is a clever approach that in-corporates the identity of a city within its subway map by grafting symbolic elements of each city onto the map – with New York featuring a heart shape and Tokyo the sun disc of the national flag.

Kim Ji-hwan, from Zero per Zero, describes the maps as visually appealing while still preserving clarity of information.

“Subway map designs can afford to be somewhat removed from real geography which is what allowed Harry Beck to fit many subway lines in a limited space and still be clear when he designed his first Tube map of London,” explained Kim.

“Beck’s basic concepts have been widely adopted for other network maps around the world. We have taken advantage of these characteristics, traditionally employed by subway maps, and projected characteristics of cities onto our maps.”

Kim said the result turned out to be a total recreation of railway maps: “Current official subway maps of cities are well designed and convey information clearly but we wanted to add more,” he said.

“We went through many trial versions to find the perfect compromise between the clarity of the information and the manipulation of lines. Choosing a unique symbol of a city and working out how to incorporate it into the subway map was another challenge. We had to know the city indepth and how to integrate the more interesting elements of each city.”

The maps from Zero per Zero are beautifully crafted.  The series of the City Railway System are currently available in four sizes ranging from name-card size to poster size.

“With New York we thought that the shape of the heart from Milton Glaser’s I LOVE NY logo might fit the overall shape of the New York city so we laid out the five boroughs in the heart shape and then mapped subway lines over it,” explained Kim.

“Famous landmarks and attractions such as the Empire State building were added to the map at the end so it gives a sense of New York as a tourist spot.

“For Seoul it was decided to include the grand symbol of the Han River. The shape of the River mimics the curvature in the middle of the Tae-Geuk mark of the national flag of Korea, which also inspired the overall circular shape of the map.”

“In the centre of the Tokyo map lie concentric circles spreading out to the entire city. Tokyo owns the biggest number of railways of any kind, including subway, light-rail and mono-rail with more than 1500 stations that cover the metropolitan area. The strong representation of circles reminds visitors of the national flag of Japan.”

Other maps include the Barcelona Railway System, which makes use of the curves of Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi, whose work can be seen throughout Barcelona. Says Kim: “We combined the characteristics of Barcelona and Gaudi together so the whole city is visualised as a neat pattern with irregular curves.”

The Hokkaido Railway Map features images of snow with the region famous for its winter landscape, according to Kim. “We chose a snowflake as a symbol of Hokkaido and picked silver as the colour to emphasise the image of snow.” 

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