What’s Precise vs. What’s Helpful

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Take a look at the following collection of New York City subway maps.

The maps on the left are very precise. They are geographically pure. This would be great if they were intended for geographers or anyone else who needs a precise map.

However, these are graphics to inform people who ride the subway. They could care less about the surrounding landscape. They just need to find the right transfer, to get in the right tube. The information and clarity of the subway lines themselves is what’s most important.

The maps on the right are redesigned with the user in mind. They clarify the relationship of the subway lines to one another. Geographical purity is sacrificed, but the result (in theory) is a happier and more civil subway commuter.

Who is your audience? Do they need every tiny detail? What can you remove to provide more clarity to the message.

Remember, design and communication is the practice of subtraction.

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