In a burrowing episode of the TED original series Small Things, Big Idea, host and legendary designer Michael Bierut explains how the iconic Transport For London (TFL) tube map came about after a first design proved too cumbersome. In response, an engineering draftsman named Harry Beck put to paper a specific principle that guided the geometric design that’s still being used today.
He had a key insight and that was that people riding underground in trains don’t really care what’s happening above ground they just want to get from station to station. Where do I get on, where do I get off? It’s the system that’s important, not the geography.