cc_constellationWhile we’re on the subject of art, one interesting tidbit I learned about at the MLK Street Fair was the origin of the pictograms associated with each station. It turns out they’re supposed to be constellations, as explained in this brochure.

The basic idea is that one plots out the locations of several points of interest in the vicinity of each station, and then connects those points in a way that suggests some shape, which then becomes the pictogram.

For example, in the Columbia City “map” at right, the leftmost “star” is the light rail station, and the other stars are various landmarks along Rainier Avenue. All in all, it requires a healthy dose of imagination, but no more so than real constellations.

I suppose the pictogram program is an attempt to make the system more accessible for the illiterate and non-English-speaking, and that’s fine enough. It might not have hurt to come up with a scheme a bit easier to reverse-engineer, but how such a scheme would work isn’t immediately clear.

6 Replies to “Constellations”

  1. Wow, that’s far more creative than I imagined. I had guessed that the pictograms stood for the area: torch for the stadium, dragon for the International district, opera glasses for the… um… symphony (I guess they can never connect with Seattle Center). But their little maps really do resemble the pictures. Nice.

  2. I might be the only one who doesn’t like the pictograms. They’re silly and make the map look crowded and confusing. If there’s no mention as to what the other little stars or attractions are…then it’s just plain useless.

    I loved the simple little dots on the Paris metro that blinked when the station was next, and stayed lit after it passed (for the hearing impaired or just plain coolness). Underneath each station dot would be simple metro connections or bus connections. Instead of a pictogram on the Link trains, how about something more useful? Like bus connections and lit station dots?

    1. Oh, you’re not the only one doesn’t like them. I actually had no idea what they meant until now. And I’m one that likes to search out and find these things.

  3. Mexico City and Nagoya use pictograms, according to the Transit Maps of the World Book. And I was told at the safety fair that there’s a chance they won’t be able to be used because of some kind of signage regulations.

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