Unofficial Map: Paris Métro Map by Constantine Konovalov

I first came across this project last November, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. An obvious work-in-progress with a lot of half-finished ideas and only part of the map visible in the preview image made things very hard to judge properly. 

Fast forward six months and the finished product has been unveiled at last. It’s definitely been worth the wait, as I think this is a very polished, well-considered map. The central conceit – that Métro lines 2 and 6 should form a perfect circle around Paris – is not a new one, but this is a particularly well implemented interpretation of that idea. 

The use of 30-degree angles instead of the standard 45 allows more versatility, but care has also been taken to minimise the number of directional changes along routes. Indeed, Constantine reckons that there are half as many “bends on the line” on this map as there are on the official RATP Métro map. It is this straightening out of routes that helps prevent the central part of the map – that contained within the idealised circle – from looking like so much spaghetti in a bowl. A lot of work has gone into creating harmony and space between all the many and varied route lines, and I find the overall effect very pleasing. The path of the Seine orients the reader nicely, as does the inclusion of the Canal St. Martin and some delightful line icons of major landmarks throughout the city.

Mode differentiation is good, with Métro, RER, Transilien and tram services all looking quite obviously different to each other. Interchange station symbols have been greatly simplified from the earlier draft, which helps them stand out much better now. Destinations reachable via a short walk are indicated with dotted lines: a very welcome touch! Finally, future expansions are also included as dotted route outlines, showing just how much thought has gone into this map… I do love a map that’s future-proofed!

If I have one tiny complaint, it’s the way that the outer edges have been compressed and distorted to allow the inner part of the map to work properly. In real life, if you stand on the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde is in one direction, and the Grande Arche at La Défense is in the exact opposite direction. It’s one of Paris’ grand axes and almost as much a landmark in its own right as the buildings along it. The official map honours this axis, but Constantine’s map has to bend the path quite substantially to keep the even spacing of stations around the perfect 2/6 ring. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch, and I think that the change of background colour at the urban boundary almost acts as a signifier that the map is switching from simplified geography to pure diagram at that point.

I also think that the map could have relied a little less on the established look of the official map (despite the presence of their logo, this project is not endorsed or supported by the RATP). While the similar look creates an instant sense of familiarity, I do think that Constantine could have pushed the envelope a bit and created something with its own unique look and feel.

Our rating: The lure of making a perfect circle out of Métro lines 2 and 6 is almost too great to ignore, but there have been many failed and downright ugly attempts at it over the years. This is easily the best effort I’ve seen, if perhaps a little overly reliant on the design themes of the official map. Four stars!

Source: – take a look at the incredible process video at the bottom of the page: you can almost see Constantine’s thought processes and ideas evolve along with the map. Well worth watching!