New book on the iconic London Underground tube map

  • Date

    Fri 13 Dec 19

A Tube map design by Maxwell Roberts

A new book investigates the copyright issues behind unofficial Tube map designs worldwide, and why alternative versions are created.

Tube Map Travels: Imitations, adaptations, and explorations worldwide investigates different versions of the London Underground map, and comments on the line that is crossed moving from creative alternatives to blatant copyright violations. 

Transport for London (TfL) holds the copyright for the iconic Tube map, first designed by Henry Beck in 1933, and while they do allow some creative unofficial derivative works to be produced, the mass of tourist guides has meant that TfL have had to pursue potential copyright violations.

Dr Maxwell Roberts, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex has been collecting Underground maps since he was eight-years-old. He said: “This book comes from my strange and unique hobby, which is to collect London Underground intellectual property violations.”

Most unofficial Tube maps are made to avoid the cost of obtaining the official Tube map for tourist guides. Dr Roberts began designing his own versions in 1999, but as he explains, most of his works don’t breach copyright:  “You’re only violating it if you copy the configuration, so the copyright is not in the symbols or the stations, the facts are not copyright … it’s the actual shape of the lines.”

Dr Roberts has previously published two books on the history and design of the official Tube map and hopes that this new book will interest the general public. He said: “Everyone’s a map geek. You don’t have to go far to find someone who says ‘oh I love maps, I could look at them for hours’. Maps draw people in.” 

Tube Map Travels: Imitations, adaptations, and explorations worldwide is published by Capital Transport

This story was written by journalism student Jessica Day-Parker when she was on placement in the communications office.