The making of the Odessa tram route map

Overview• ProcessHi Res

Deciding that the existing map is horrible and the effort requires a new approach. The first attempt to make a change looks like this.

If one wants to create a nice map, they first need to start working at the studio. Making a few more attempts while packing things.

Odessa tram routes have a special feature: they all go from north to south, creating a long sausage of colored lines. First seeing this as a bug but later coming to appreciate it as a feature.

After a short break, starting to work on the map again. We need to find a grapheme, colors, features and dynamics. The most difficult part is the railway terminal area which looks like a wart on the long string of lines.

Looking for a way to show stops. We need to make them unobtrusive yet easily noticeable. The geography of lines changes.

As an experiment, shortening the line sausage by moving the lines going to Kotovsky District onto a separate fragment. The solution won’t survive.

Taking a long break to learn how to create truly beautiful maps instead of trying to dress up corpses.

Deciding that geography is really important only in the center of the city and that passengers couldn’t care less about the shapes of lines in the suburbs. Plus, the lines aren’t too tied to landmarks and objects at the edges of the map anyway. Bending the exceedingly long line on the south to the right.

While the lines are being bent, we get the idea to make the central hub special in some way. How about we raise it up by giving it some volume? Looks interesting but creates a wrong impression: it’s not a monorail that goes above the street.

Going back to the current version and improving it. Trying to find interesting ways to enlarge complex fragments. Also adding railway terminal buildings, residential buildings and landmarks.

One of such fragments is the intersection near Pryvoz Market. The tram stops there are located on different sides of streets and share the same names. We need a solution that would not make the map overly complex yet would clearly mark each stop.

At one point the art director suggests to add local flair to the map by making lines informal and free flowing. For example, like this.

Later, all lines will be like this and slight pleasant whackiness will come to replace the formality. But right now we need to go out and try the result on a real tram stop.

Still looks weak. The grapheme of lines falls apart and the map looks formal and Europeanly boring. The basin is gone and the bottom left area simply looks sad.

Experimenting with all the cool features: directions to neighboring locations, messages, trolleybus routes and parks.

Adding a legend, getting rid of the narrow typeface to increase legibility. Verifying route numbers and stop names. If we were to divide the map into top and bottom, we could try to show where the stop is located by using arrows pointing up or down.

A colleague gives valuable advice, including to get rid of dimmed dirty colors, fix curves and remove the noise.

Carrying out a dozen more plastic surgeries. Making dimmed colors lighter, accents stronger and removing double lines on roads.

Experimenting with parks and vegetation but ultimately deciding to go with more abstract greenery.

As an interesting feature, deciding to show terminal stations with line numbers and transit stops with dots.

Not forgetting about icons, either. They could have more Odessa in them if they were to rhyme with the logo.

Sending the result to the editor for proofreading, printing samples and preparing the announcement.