Two new chapters of the part Details of Ilya Birman’s Designing Transit Maps are out

March 29, 2024
The chapters about design details of regular and final stops. Also the sample chapter ‘Bends’ is available for free

Two new chapters of the part Details of Ilya Birman’s Designing Transit Maps are out. The chapters are ‘Stops’ and ‘Terminals’.

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 simplest way to indicate a stop is to draw a circle. The chapter explores variations in circle size, radius, stroke width, and type: punched out, filled, and outlined. A stop can also be a square, a beam, some exotic shape, a gap, a cutout, and, of course, a tick. The author demonstrates how to choose the size of a tick, explains Tufte’s principle of Smallest Effective Difference, and shows various tick shapes: rounded, trapezoidal, triangular.

If a route is shown with a double line, then both circles and ticks have to be modified to fit it. There is also a separate topic of stop designations in line bundles. Ilya shows how to draw them so that they are beautiful and unambiguous.


A terminal, or a final stop, is still a stop, so you can use the designations from the previous chapter for it. However, it makes sense to emphasize the ends of a route: they are often used as the route’s identifiers along with a number or color. A visual distinction at line ends can be also used for aesthetic reasons. Circles at line ends can be given a thicker outline, ticks are often mirrored to get T‑shaped dead ends, while some maps use really extravagant designations. There is also a radical option: no terminal designations at all, just labels. Dozens of examples are carefully analyzed and shown in the chapter.

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.

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