Cartographer Chat with Aurélien Boyer-Moraes and his updated redesign of Detroit bus system map

What is your map (title, year, etc.)

This is my latest version of the public transport of Detroit (DDOT) network map, as of 2022.

How did you come to make this map? What is the story?

This is a long story but to make it short it goes back to an old fascination about Detroit and its electronic music scene when I was a teenager in the mid-1990s. I came across a fantastic documentary (Universal Techno if I remember correctly) on the French public TV channel Arte and at the time I had no internet, no computer at all, and I discovered all of a sudden Detroit, its unique urban scape, this sound (from the late 1970s onward), it was stunning, I was mesmerized. I was already looking at many things linked to cities, architecture, urbanism, mass transit networks. I read architecture magazines at the city public library because they were (and still are) way too expensive. Later, when I decided to design a transport system map as an exercise (an important one), this city came back to my mind as the first choice (cf point 4). It was also the only American city of which I had a streetmap paper copy in 2000, I had found in a defunct bookshop specialized in maps in Nantes.

What are you most proud of in the map? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about your map?

Its straightforwardness and strong coherence: the relationship between the lines on the map and their headways, as exposed underneath in a chart; everything is closely integrated, everything has a clear function. The map serves a double purpose: showing the network as well as depicting its offer (with its variation during the day or the week). Every important information is there and the map is still light, well “spaced out” as one might say for a book composition, I come from graphic design after all. I consider it is the clearest I’ve ever drawn so far.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

I was quite a bookworm, I have a solid “paper” or “everything printed” background. Early on I discovered I enjoyed as much examining maps (all kind, from the topographic to the synthetic chart of a statistical atlas) as reading fiction, they had the same power to me, they open so many things as well as convey so much. So during my further studies in design, as soon as I could, I tried to conceive a map: it had to be a public transit system map, because of the kind of information it had to convey I wanted to deal with visually. The first map I’ve done properly on a computer, all vector, was Detroit’s―and here we are (slightly more than two decades later).

Aurélien Boyer-Moraes: I am binational French and Portuguese, living between Lisbon and France. I’ve designed official maps for several networks of French cities (most notable: Lyon métro-tram-trolleys, Dijon, Metz) as a freelancer for Attoma until 2016.

One thought on “Cartographer Chat with Aurélien Boyer-Moraes and his updated redesign of Detroit bus system map

  1. My Dad was a DOT driver and I would ride his Crosstown route in the 60s. The city has changed a lot no Tireman no Clairmont it is sad.

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