Book review

by Mark Ovenden

The author of Metro Maps of the World has now produced a detailed study of the look and feel of the metro and RER lines in the French capital. Ovenden focuses on the development of typography and cartography, and also considers the story of Hector Guimard’s iconic Art Nouveau station entrances which have become a shorthand for Paris and its transport network.

There is a history of the growth of the metro and RER, starting with the 19th century conflict between the need to provide the crowded city with fast intra-urban transport and the competing demands for connections between the main railway termini. The long debate left Paris lagging behind London, Berlin and Budapest in the provision of urban transport, but the French city caught up with a rapid construction programme launched in advance of the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

The 176 pages of this landscape-format book contain many illustrations, including a huge number of maps of interest to ‘design students, map geeks and transport enthusiasts’. There is an analysis of best practice in map design, and the chapters are numbered and coloured in the style of the metro lines – three ‘bis’ chapters look at printed materials produced by organisations other than the rail operators themselves.

The book is endorsed by RATP, whose Chairman Pierre Mongin says that good design is seen as valuable resource at the organisation. ‘Moving from printed documents to passenger information on digital screens will not change anything: the clarity and beauty of a well designed map will remain fundamental.’

ISBN 978 1 85414 322 8

£29·95 from Capital Transport Publishing, PO Box 250, Harrow, Middlesex, HA3 5ZH