The superchapter Labels of Ilya Birman’s Designing Transit Maps is out

5 июля 2024
The chapters about design details of transfers, directions, and fares zone. Also the sample chapter ‘Bends’ is available for free

The superchapter Labels of Ilya Birman’s Designing Transit Maps is out. It’s the largest chapter in the book.

The book speaks of transit maps history, important principles of their design, and how they evolve together with their networks. The author talks about techniques: plotting the lines, denoting the stops, choosing the fonts, and composing the final poster.

Few designers have an occasion to design a subway map. But the principles and techniques discussed are applicable to any tasks of complex information display: org charts, family trees, control‑flow diagrams, fire escape plans, military operation plans, project timelines, architectural drawings. The book sharpens the reader’s eye and inculcates attention to detail.


The new chapter is a mini guide to typography and layout of station labels. You will learn:

  • how to label stations when the text doesn’t fit, how to align it neatly, how to abbreviate and hyphenate when necessary;

  • what to do when you need to fit labels for a metro station and a rail terminal next to it, and do it in two languages;

  • the trick of tilting the map instead of tilting the labels;

  • design subtleties of overlapping labels and lines;

  • about fonts and text color, adjusting of spacing around label between their lines;

  • the danger of heavy typographic emphasis on terminals;

  • findings about how people read labels drawn from testing with eyetracking.

The whole book and this chapter in particular are useful even if you never have to draw a transit map: the examples and techniques will come in handy when creating any information graphics.

Labels and eyetracking

A significant section of the chapter Labels is dedicated to eyetracking and was written in co‑authorship with designer Mark Rodionov, who worked on the official Moscow Metro Map.

Eyetracking is when we record how a person’s gaze moves across a map when they read it. When a test subject reads the stations of a line in order, and we see where they are looking, it is possible not only to find individual design problems, but also to notice patterns in them. In the problematic areas, people skip stations or accidentally read stations of neighboring lines.

Mark tested different versions of the Moscow Metro map on an eyetracker and was kind enough to share the results. Not only does the chapter analyze indivial test participants’ eye tracks, but also draw conclusions, which can be used by designers who don’t have access to eye‑tracking equipment.

Sample chapter

The chapter ‘Bends’ is available for free. In the chapter Ilya Birman shows good and bad ways to bend the lines, introduces the bend visibility principle, talks about harmonizing the bends in line bundles.


Preorder is available as before and you can start reading the book right now. If you choose to subscribe to the book before it’s fully published, you will get 2 extra months free. Your official subscription time hasn’t started ticking yet⁠—we’ll start your subscription clock later. The book is being published in parts, and the readers still have their paid year plus 2 months as a gift.

Gift and special price

By the way, you can gift a subscription to any Bureau Gorbunov book to someone you know. When you give the book as a gift, you pay for the year of subscription and will not have any additional charges. The person will receive a congratulatory notification about your gift to them. When their subscription runs out, they will be able to use their bank card to renew the subscription for a reduced fee. Delight your friends, colleagues, and anybody who’s curious.

Also, a special price is available to Bureau Gorbunov Publishing subscribers. To use the special price, sign in using the address you used to subscribe to any of the other books.

Now is a good time to subscribe and gift the subscription to your friends.