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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • What I do is I organize information.

  • I'm a graphic designer.

  • Professionally, I try to make sense

  • often of things that don't make much sense themselves.

  • So my father might not understand what it is that I do for a living.

  • His part of my ancestry has been farmers.

  • He's part of this ethnic minority called the Pontic Greeks.

  • They lived in Asia Minor and fled to Greece after a genocide

  • about a hundred years ago.

  • And ever since that, migration has somewhat been a theme in my family.

  • My father moved to Germany, studied there and married,

  • and as a result, I now have this half-German brain,

  • with all the analytical thinking and that slightly dorky demeanor

  • that come with that.

  • And of course it meant that I was a foreigner in both countries,

  • and that of course made it pretty easy for me to migrate as well,

  • in good family tradition, if you like.

  • But of course, most journeys that we undertake from day to day

  • are within a city.

  • And, especially if you know the city,

  • getting from A to B may seem pretty obvious, right?

  • But the question is, why is it obvious?

  • How do we know where we're going?

  • So I washed up on a Dublin ferry port about 12 years ago,

  • a professional foreigner, if you like,

  • and I'm sure you've all had this experience before, yeah?

  • You arrive in a new city,

  • and your brain is trying to make sense of this new place.

  • Once you find your base, your home,

  • you start to build this cognitive map of your environment.

  • It's essentially this virtual map that only exists in your brain.

  • All animal species do it,

  • even though we all use slightly different tools.

  • Us humans, of course, we don't move around marking our territory by scent, like dogs.

  • We don't run around emitting ultrasonic squeaks, like bats.

  • We just don't do that,

  • although a night in the Temple Bar district can get pretty wild.

  • (Laughter)

  • No, we do two important things to make a place our own.

  • First, we move along linear routes.

  • Typically, we find a main street,

  • and this main street becomes a linear strip map in our minds.

  • But our mind keeps it pretty simple, yeah?

  • Every street is generally perceived as a straight line,

  • and we kind of ignore the little twists and turns that the streets make.

  • When we do, however, make a turn into a side street,

  • our mind tends to adjust that turn to a 90-degree angle.

  • This of course makes for some funny moments

  • when you're in some old city layout

  • that follows some sort of circular city logic, yeah?

  • Maybe you've had that experience as well.

  • Let's say you're on some spot on a side street

  • that projects from a main cathedral square,

  • and you want to get to another point on a side street just like that.

  • The cognitive map in your mind may tell you,

  • "Aris, go back to the main cathedral square,

  • take a 90-degree turn and walk down that other side street."

  • But somehow you feel adventurous that day, and you suddenly discover

  • that the two spots were actually only a single building apart.

  • Now, I don't know about you,

  • but I always feel like I find this wormhole

  • or this inter-dimensional portal.

  • (Laughter)

  • So we move along linear routes

  • and our mind straightens streets and perceives turns as 90-degree angles.

  • The second thing that we do to make a place our own

  • is we attach meaning and emotions to the things

  • that we see along those lines.

  • If you go to the Irish countryside and you ask an old lady for directions,

  • brace yourself for some elaborate Irish storytelling

  • about all the landmarks, yeah?

  • She'll tell you the pub where her sister used to work,

  • and "... go past that church where I got married," that kind of thing.

  • So we fill our cognitive maps with these markers of meaning.

  • What's more, we abstract repeat patterns and recognize them.

  • We recognize them by the experiences and we abstract them into symbols.

  • And of course, we're all capable of understanding these symbols.

  • (Laughter)

  • What's more, we're all capable of understanding the cognitive maps,

  • and you are all capable of creating these cognitive maps yourselves.

  • So next time, when you want to tell your friend how to get to your place,

  • you grab a beermat, grab a napkin, and you just observe yourself

  • create this awesome piece of communication design.

  • It's got straight lines.

  • It's got 90-degree corners.

  • You might add little symbols along the way.

  • And when you look at what you've just drawn,

  • you realize it does not resemble a street map.

  • If you were to put an actual street map on top of what you've just drawn,

  • you'd realize your streets and the distances -- they'd be way off.

  • No, what you've just drawn is more like a diagram or a schematic.

  • It's a visual construct of lines, dots, letters,

  • designed in the language of our brains.

  • So it's no big surprise

  • that the big information-design icon of the last century --

  • the pinnacle of showing everybody how to get from A to B,

  • the London Underground map --

  • was not designed by a cartographer or a city planner;

  • it was designed by an engineering draftsman.

  • In the 1930s,

  • Harry Beck applied the principles of schematic diagram design

  • and changed the way public transport maps are designed forever.

  • Now the very key to the success of this map

  • is in the omission of less important information

  • and in the extreme simplification.

  • So, straightened streets, corners of 90 and 45 degrees,

  • but also the extreme geographic distortion in that map.

  • If you were to look at the actual locations of these stations,

  • you'd see they're very different.

  • But this is all for the clarity of the public Tube map.

  • If you, say, wanted to get from Regent's Park station

  • to Great Portland Street,

  • the Tube map would tell you:

  • take the Tube, go to Baker Street, change over, take another Tube.

  • Of course, what you don't know is that the two stations

  • are only about a hundred meters apart.

  • Now we've reached the subject of public transport,

  • and public transport here in Dublin

  • is a somewhat touchy subject.

  • (Laughter)

  • For everybody who does not know the public transport here in Dublin,

  • essentially, we have this system of local buses that grew with the city.

  • For every outskirt that was added, there was another bus route added,

  • running from the outskirt all the way to the city center.

  • And as these local buses approach the city center,

  • they all run side by side and converge in pretty much one main street.

  • So when I stepped off the boat 12 years ago,

  • I tried to make sense of that.

  • Because exploring a city on foot only gets you so far.

  • But when you explore a foreign and new public transport system,

  • you will build a cognitive map in your mind in pretty much the same way.

  • Typically, you choose yourself a rapid transport route,

  • and in your mind, this route is perceived as a straight line.

  • And like a pearl necklace,

  • all the stations and stops are nicely and neatly aligned along the line.

  • And only then you start to discover some local bus routes

  • that would fill in the gaps,

  • and that allow for those wormhole, inter-dimensional portal shortcuts.

  • So I tried to make sense, and when I arrived,

  • I was looking for some information leaflets

  • that would help me crack this system and understand it,

  • and I found those brochures.

  • (Laughter)

  • They were not geographically distorted.

  • They had a lot of omission of information,

  • but unfortunately, the wrong information.

  • Say, in the city center --

  • there were never actually any lines that showed the routes.

  • (Laughter)

  • There are actually not even any stations with names.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, the maps of Dublin transport have gotten better,

  • and after I finished the project, they got a good bit better,

  • but still no station names, still no routes.

  • So, being naive, and being half-German, I decided,

  • "Aris, why don't you build your own map?"

  • So that's what I did.

  • I researched how each and every bus route moved through the city, nice and logical,

  • every bus route a separate line.

  • I plotted it into my own map of Dublin,

  • and in the city center ...

  • I got a nice spaghetti plate.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, this is a bit of a mess,

  • so I decided, of course,

  • "You're going to apply the rules of schematic design,"

  • cleaning up the corridors,

  • widening the streets where there were loads of buses

  • and making the streets at straight, 90-degree corners, 45-degree corners

  • or fractions of that,

  • and filled it in with the bus routes.

  • And I built this city center bus map of the system,

  • how it was five years ago.

  • I'll zoom in again so that you get the full impact

  • of the quays and Westmoreland Street.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now I can proudly say --

  • (Applause)

  • I can proudly say, as a public transport map,

  • this diagram is an utter failure.

  • (Laughter)

  • Except, probably, in one aspect:

  • I now had a great visual representation

  • of just how clogged up and overrun the city center really was.

  • Now, call me old-fashioned,

  • but I think a public transport route map should have lines,

  • because that's what they are, yeah?

  • They're little pieces of string that wrap their way

  • through the city center or through the city.

  • If you will, the Greek guy inside of me feels if I don't get a line,

  • it's like entering the labyrinth of the Minotaur

  • without having Ariadne giving you the string to find your way.

  • So the outcome of my academic research,

  • loads of questionnaires, case studies and looking at a lot of maps,

  • was that a lot of the problems and shortcomings

  • of the public transport system here in Dublin

  • was the lack of a coherent public transport map --

  • a simplified, coherent public transport map --

  • because I think this is the crucial step to understanding

  • a public transport network on a physical level,

  • but it's also the crucial step to make a public transport network mappable

  • on a visual level.

  • So I teamed up with a gentleman called James Leahy,

  • a civil engineer and a recent master's graduate

  • of the Sustainable Development program at DIT,

  • and together we drafted the simplified model network,

  • which I could then go ahead and visualize.

  • So here's what we did.

  • We distributed these rapid-transport corridors throughout the city center,

  • and extended them into the outskirts.

  • Rapid, because we wanted them to be served by rapid-transport vehicles.

  • They would get exclusive road use, where possible,

  • and it would be high-quantity, high-quality transport.

  • James wanted to use bus rapid transport for that,

  • rather than light rail.

  • For me, it was important

  • that the vehicles that would run on those rapid transport corridors

  • would be visibly distinguishable from local buses on the street.

  • Now we could take out all the local buses

  • that ran alongside those rapid transport means.

  • Any gaps that appeared in the outskirts were filled again.

  • So, in other words, if there was a street in an outskirt

  • where there had been a bus, we put a bus back in,

  • only now these buses wouldn't run all the way to the city center,

  • but connect to the nearest rapid-transport mode,

  • one of these thick lines over there.

  • So the rest was merely a couple of months of work,

  • and a couple of fights with my girlfriend,

  • of our place constantly being clogged up with maps,

  • and the outcome, one of the outcomes,

  • was this map of the Greater Dublin area.

  • I'll zoom in a little bit.

  • This map only shows the rapid transport connections, no local bus,

  • very much in the "metro map" style that was so successful in London,

  • and that since has been exported to so many other major cities,

  • and therefore is the language that we should use

  • for public transport maps.

  • What's also important is, with a simplified network like this,

  • it now would become possible for me to tackle the ultimate challenge

  • and make a public transport map for the city center,

  • one where I wouldn't just show rapid transport connections,

  • but also all the local bus routes, streets and the likes,

  • and this is what a map like this could look like.

  • I'll zoom in a little bit.

  • In this map, I'm including each transport mode,

  • so rapid transport, bus, DART, tram and the likes.

  • Each individual route is represented by a separate line.

  • The map shows each and every station,

  • each and every station name,