MAPS ARE ONE OF THE MOST BASIC DATA VISUALIZATIONS THAT WE HAVE; we've been making them for millennia. But we still haven't perfected them as a tool for understanding complex systems—and with 26 lines and 468 stations across five boroughs, the New York City subway system certainly is complex. The KickMap™ is the result of my quest to design a more effective subway map, and ultimately to encourage increased ridership.
I was born in Queens and raised in Brooklyn. The first subway map I saw was my father's, circa 1960. It made a vivid impression on me because it intimidated me. I saw a gray New York with red, green, and black lines running all over it like a grid (see Figure 5-1), and hundreds of station names attached. It reminded me of a complex electrical diagram that I couldn't understand; it looked very "adult-serious" and even a little scary. I hoped I'd never have to deal with it.
Figure 5-1. The 1958 New York City Subway map designed by George Salomon. 1958 New York City Subway Map © MTA New York City Transit. Used with permission.
In college I majored in design, and I spent half a year studying at the University of London. I was all on my own in a huge city I had never been to before. I quickly learned that the London Underground ...