Legible London versus Islington

A comparison of on-street signage in London

Walking by Old Street on my way to work every day I am instantly gratified when I see a match up of a Legible London on-street map versus one done by Islington.

I regularly see pedestrians attempt the Islington map and then move straight on to Legible London. Why is this? Why do so many people prefer Legible London to the Islington map? The two maps come from very different starting points. The Islington map is an illustration, a birds-eye view focused on the main streets, often to the detriment of the hinterland that geographically makes up most of the capital. The Islington maps also stand in relative isolation from each other and in that sense each area feels disconnected from its neighbour.

The Legible London maps are clearly a crop taken from a wider cartographic standard, giving a greater sense of the connectivity of the city and inferring that journeys will be continuously supported. The Legible London base map is also democratic, it maps all streets with geographical accuracy and it is only how content is layered that highlights landmarks, main streets and interesting places.

Most importantly, from a practical point of view, Legible London has something that the Islington maps do not, an index. It is what millions of visitors ask of the map immediately upon reading it – “where is this street?” “Where is this landmark?” An index is a quick and easy method of decoding a map for those people, like the man in the picture, who do not have the time or desire to play a game of “find the street”.

Of course, during Legible London’s development the Islington council was installing their on-street maps and agreed that one day it would be beneficial for their monoliths to adorn the Legible London base map… But that’s a story for another day.