Design Facepalm

April 24th, 2013

I generally try to keep things here reasonably positive(well… at least I steer clear of the ad hominem), but I was doing research for a post on the planned August service changes when I came across this little stunner on SORTA’s site:

the worst map ever

This thing warrants analysis as a work of bad design.

It hurts my eyes. This. Hurts. My. Eyes.

SORTA, I love you like a member of the family(one who happens to be a transit agency) but his thing should not have left the engineering department’s breakroom. This has no redeeming qualities as a map, as advertising for our city’s transit system, or even for simply illustrating the service changes you have planned as I assume was intended.

The only information this actually conveys is a list of lines that will go to the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, and that could have been conveyed…

…wait for it…

in a list.

Which it was:

bad awful map with list

Screenshot from SORTA’s website

So this wasn’t even a matter of really needing a map to explain something and just not having the time to do it right. This is a case of someone bad at design going above and beyond to represent their agency (poorly).

SORTA, I know y’all say you only have so much time/resources, but please consider hiring a designer and upgrading to at least the latest version of MS Paint. I know it’s hard sometimes, but you just can’t leave the house dressed like this. I was at DAAPworks this week, and I can tell you for certain that there are a LOT of very good designers(and even cartographers) in this city. Hire one.

Here’s a great example in the same general style from a graduating graphic artist:

map from a graphic design student at DAAPworks

Sorry, I really should have written down the name of the artist. I’ll go back and get it.

It’s got a few of it’s own little problems but it’s still a thousand times better as design. It makes me want to look at it. My experience at DAAP tells me this person is probably about to either leave the city for a decent job somewhere or stay here for one in food-service. Just hire them, SORTA. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

Now, I’m not just being a smartass here; this kind of thing is a big reason why many people don’t use transit1. They see this:

the worst transit map ever

or this:

blurry map

Also from SORTA’s website

Or this:

SORTA's government square map

again, from SORTA

and compared to even this:

google search results page for cars

There is just no competition at all. Hands down, transit loses the fight for people’s hearts. Cars are sexier. I’m saying that and I totally hate cars. I gag every time I see a car commercial but I still know they’re doing so much better at appealing to people. How could anyone ever think of using transit when it looks like it doesn’t even take itself seriously?

And just to be super fair because those are different things:

google results page for transit

I didn’t have to look far for this

Transit is still losing. If a car company ever put out a piece of design like this map/graphic/thing in connection with any of their products, I guarantee someone would get fired. Rightly so.

Transit needs to up it’s game.

It’s time for a makover, SORTA. I want to get you laid!

Sad bus in a prom dress

“The Loneliest Ride”
photo-editing credits to the lovely Jeremy Johnson

Show 1 footnote

  1. AND I think why they tend to gravitate so powerfully to simple routes like the streetcar with overly simple maps

10 responses to “Design Facepalm”

  1. Ron says:

    “needs to up its game.”

    Its, not it’s.

  2. My first thought upon seeing that map is one of those wireframe toys in the doctor’s office waiting room. That (*) piece is totally stuck and I will get it unstuck if it takes me half an hour!

  3. Tim Bender says:

    I’m really excited about the MetroPlus rapid service along the Uptown/Kenwood/Montgomery/BlueAsh corridor. I applaud them for going all-in on this service experiment, and will definitely come back to Cincy after August to try it out.

    I am somewhat knowledgeable about their planning process for this 2012 network study and have to say that their staff and consultant put everything on the table. Some of the things they were talking about doing long-term really really impressed me.

    It’s easy finding things to criticize Metro about, but I don’t think the general public really understands A) how talented their staff are, B) how much their organization really cares about the service on the street, or C) how challenging it can be getting consensus from the multitude of stakeholders that the organization represents.

    • Nate Wessel says:

      I have my reservations, though admittedly a large part of that is probably because I wasn’t in on the discussions/process that led them to their current plan. I literally don’t know what they’re thinking.

      I may have a unique perspective as a planner who is very, very interested in transit(but not currently employed in it), but I do wish SORTA and TANK were more transparent with their planning processes. I do think there’s good stuff going on in there, but to me it’s a total black box. From the outside, all the public gets to see seems to have passed through communications and PR folks and all the interesting and frank ideas get filtered out in favour of something more easily palatable by the general public. We get to see a flashy bus rebranding but not the demographic trends or whatever else that made it’s presence necessary. I think there’s room for both.

      • Tim Bender says:

        Metro hasn’t released their findings for public comment yet to the best of my knowledge, but will. They had a steering committee assembled that met regularly, made up of stakeholders that represented a cross-section of the community.

        TANK’s process is in the early stages. They too have a steering committee assembled and will reach out to the public later on in the process.

  4. PCjr says:

    Nate, it seems to me that this visual aid was constructed as an informational advertisement, with both current and prospective transit users in mind. As a non-transit user myself, I can glance at that graphic and get just the right amount of information pertaininng to the changes. In fact, it looks like there may now be a crosstown route that I could actually use, so I will investigate further. I don’t see how your 1000x better example would be any more effective, but it would be interesting to see how you would attempt to make it so.

    Now, when the city park maps were re-done a few years back in that same style, that was a true travesty.

  5. Shields says:

    Wow, this metroplus is surely a big help. I have no idea of this until I read you post and by the way, I like the last picture you posted. Thank you for sharing this, great job!

  6. jenmmoore says:

    haha, i love you like a family but such design is an eyesore? LOL