Case Study: MARTA System Map Redesign


Geographic vs. Abstracted

In my research, I saw that Massimo Vignelli encountered issues with trying to maintain geographic accuracy and opted to abstract the local New York Geography and emphasize the system details which resulted in New Yorkers not initially accepting the design well, due to them focusing on the inaccuracy of geographical locations for navigating the city.

Massimo Vignelli’s Original 1970s NY Transit map

Massimo admitted in later interviews that he should have omitted the geographical landmarks altogether. Abstracting the geography along with a European design approach, provided to set the point of entry for most too high. MIT studies have shown that sharper turns with lines are easy to follow with your eyes. The ability to scan for information is a necessity. The most significant challenge for this project is typographic. If designing to maintain geographic accuracy, readability, and scalability, then the current solution addresses this by fitting the large concentration of station names into the map by skewing some names vertically. Overall the MARTA system map is accessible to read due to the simplicity of the system and the small number of lines and stops.


In early iterations, I was unable to build an elegant solution using the current format of the geographically accurate representation. The current MARTA map represents a slightly abstracted version of the geography of Atlanta, so I did not think it was important to show the topography. Atlanta does not contain any significant natural or humanmade landmarks that people base there day to day navigation. The primary method used for describing location and direction is the street names. I chose not to include street arteries on the map because the transit system was not conducive to urban sprawl. MARTA was initially designed to produce mass transit too and from metro Atlanta to the suburbs.

Current MARTA System Map
Current MARTA System Map


This solution is both an abstract of the train lines as well as the geography. I intend for this map to be read like a list of the station and that shows how the system lines are related to each other rather than a geographical map. I did not add a compass to map because I thought it would add to confusion to people viewing the map. It is simply a representation of where train stations are in relation to lines and other stations. I made the assumption that experienced riders would catch on due to the familiarity of the color-coded lines and the shape of the lines. New riders generally know that they need to get to station A from station B. I believe this map helps them accomplish that with ease because┬áthe general┬ádirection of North, South, East, West, line names and line colors are still true to the original map. Each station has a name. Each station has a white line that points to the name. Five points are the centrally located train station for all connections. I’ve abstracted the gold line to show a sharp turn indicating that Lindbergh Center station is the last station where red and gold lines split.


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