• Jonn Galea

Return of the Map

After 8 years since its original release, It felt like a good time to revisit an old friend. Slightly revamped and with a few additional tweaks, The Malta Tube Map is back, here's all the latest information.

To kick things off, a massive thanks to all of those who have enquired for the map to be reprinted over the years, arguably it was you guys who kept reminding me that there might still be a desire to engage with this design.

Eight years may seem like a strange time to revisit something but a combination of time, inspiration and energy seemed to coalesce at optimum amounts around April this year.

I can finally announce that, should you fancy a print for yourself, you can purchase one from the awesome folk at il-Lokal, via their website right away or, as of July, from their all-new store in Valletta.

For now, at least, the prints will be available as an unlimited run of high quality, minimum fade gicleé prints on A2 (59.4cm x 42cm) Decor Smooth Art 210gsm paper. Printed by the lovely people at iLab.

If you prefer something a little fancier, I am in the process of printing a very limited run of 30, super fine art A2 prints on some amazing quality paper (Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White 310 gsm) with my friends at the Digital Darkroom in Berlin.

These will be hand-signed and numbered by myself. if interested, please contact me directly at me@jonngalea.com. The first batch of 5 have already been claimed and they look amazing.

the original inspiration

When I created the original design, I had been in the UK for nearly 4 years. I was living in North London and commuted daily south of the Thames on the tube. Increasingly, I become interested in the London Underground schematic: its graphic language; its history; and its evolution.

A secondary reason for creating the design was to provide some social commentary. Despite my time away, I remained very passionate about my Maltese roots (and still do).

I felt increasingly irked by the state of the transport system and traffic congestion on the Maltese islands. Keep in mind that this was around the time that the public transport system in Malta had been heavily reshuffled and ended up a bit in disarray (and, some say, still is).

It was with these two sources of inspiration that the map started to emerge. I immersed myself in the detail and arguably had a little too much fun, finding ways to add little subliminal and personal nuances. For instance, the lack of infrastructure on Gozo and the fact it's barely even on the Map, is on purpose, reflecting how Malta's sister island (and its population) is so often overlooked.

With the above in mind, it becomes clear that, despite the design language used, the map was never meant to be a proposal for an actual network.

It's obscenely vast to the point where building and maintaining such a system, especially considering the geology of Malta, could never be financially sustainable. That's not to say a simplified version would not work, but again, my main aim was to mirror the layout and structure of the London Underground's various lines and connections.

What has changed

The design is rather complex, and in truth, every time I look through the production files, I make minor tweaks here and there. The following is a rundown of the main differences from the original:

  • The lines themselves are a little thicker, with some very minor amendments to certain station positioning, particularly ones closer to the coastline.

  • A few stations have been added, one has been removed, and a select few have been renamed. Namely, Baystreet is now called San Ġorg and The Point is now called Tigné Point.

  • The map key on the left of the design has been redesigned to include the 'Malta Metro' logo devised for the 2016 Malta Design Week exhibit.

In general, the changes are minor and it would take an extremely keen eye to point out any differences. I certainly don't want anyone who purchased any of the original limited runs to feel short-changed or as though they have an inferior version. I thank you for your initial support and the new print clearly states that it was originally conceived and printed in 2013 as a homage to you.

A 'fictitious facsimile'

The print continues to clearly state that it is a 'fictitious facsimile'. I remember I had 'umm-ed and ahh-ed over this choice of words but I am glad I stuck with them, here is my reasoning.

I chose fictitious over fictional because the latter is usually used to describe something in literature such as a fictional character or a fictional story. Fictitious is usually used to describe a lie or invention that happens in real life. I find this rather serendipitous considering the number of times this design has been misinterpreted as a genuine proposal over the years.

A facsimile refers to an 'exacting reproduction of written or printed material', and whilst the design is original, there's no denying that it takes almost all of its visual cues from the London schematic that inspired it. The fonts, the colours and spacing, all take generous inspiration from Harry Beck's creation.

It's all rather pretentious.

The first time map came out, it sparked quite a bit of conversation, I'd be interested to see if this iteration does the same. What are your thoughts about the map? The connection between Malta and London? The state of the transport system in Malta? How would you approach a rapid-transport system to serve the Maltese Islands?

I'm all ears.

For details and some images for the original Malta Tube Map, please go here.

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