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The pocket map, an inseparable guide to travelling on the Metro

Did you also discover the Metro network thanks to our inseparable pocket maps? When the internet didn’t yet exist, maps were the faithful companion that always showed you the right way to get to your destination. They taught you how to move around the network and how to discover Madrid. This magnificent tool has changed a lot over the years and now takes a new step towards digitalisation: you can now download it to your mobile device using QR code located in the stations. A great moment to learn a little more about the history of our plans. We tell you all about it

21/07/2022 - The history of the Metro pocket maps is closely related to the Metro maps; in fact, they are a sort of small-format version, but with a design, symbols and pictograms that improve the understanding of all the information. If we go back to the early days of the Metro, in 1919, with Line 1 having just been opened, we find the first map or plan of the underground that we know of, which showed the first eight stations on Line 1, between Sol and Cuatro Caminos.

Map of Metro Line 1 from 1919

From that primitive Metro plan, over the years and with the complexity of the layout of the underground network, the designs went from basic sketches to cartographic-based versions. The following images show examples of plans from 1940, 1945 and 1952.

Plano de Metro de 1940

Plano general de las líneas de Metro de 1945

Plano de Metro de 1952

In the official map of the 1970s, the routes of all the lines could be clearly seen highlighted on the street map, which was a step forward as it enabled a comprehensive visualisation of the network together with the most characteristic elements of Madrid.

Plano de 1979

As early as the early 1980s, the use of maps was already widespread among Metro passengers and the company encouraged their use as a method of making journeys easier. In fact, maps became a cheap and effective way to provide useful data, with better visualisation and new information about the network. In the following image we can see the advertisement that encouraged users to ask for the new guide map in 1980.

Publicidad animando a solicitar el plano de bolsillo en los años 80

It isn’t very clear what the early history of Metro's pocket maps was, but we certainly know that its current design is inspired by the one created by Arcadi Moradell in 1982, as part of the process of general redesign of the company's image, which resulted in the current corporate identity, including the signage. During this process, colours and font were defined, as well as other changes that in many cases are still in use and can be seen on the website.

Plano de 1982

The reach and impact of the pocket map among passengers was unstoppable. In 2001, the designer Juan de la Mata drew up a new schematic map that would be updated as the network grew. One of its most distinctive features was its pocket-sized, tri-fold format, which made it very easy to carry. It was a functional and easy to read map, with simple diagrams and recognisable areas, as well as good iconography.

Plano de Juan de la Mata

In 2007, the map underwent a radical change. Designed by Rafael Sañudo of the RaRo studio, it had a London-inspired design, where straight lines ruled. It eliminated the proportionality in the distances and the actual location of the stations. Below, image of the schematic map introduced in 2007.

Plano esquemático de 2007

Finally, in 2013, Metro decided to recover the traditional schematic map, including new icons for accessible stations, as well as for park-and-ride car parks, the new Light Rail lines, connections with Cercanías, Bibliometros and transport card management offices.

Plano del año 2013

David Lozano, Metro's Marketing Manager and author of the design of the current pocket maps, highlights that "the main milestone of the map redesign carried out in 2013 was to return to one inspired by the map introduced in the 1980s, the strengths of which were that it was easy to read, intuitive and geographically oriented".

Subsequently, Metro underwent a major redesign with the mission of developing a larger, easier to read and accessible map. As Lozano explains, "in 2017, in response to many requests from different groups, I carried out a redesign with the aim of making it more accessible. It was a challenge. It is not easy to show a network of the magnitude of Metro de Madrid, with the amount of associated information, in a single document that is at the same time perfectly easy to read, intuitive, indicative and of a reasonable size for easy storage".

Plano de 2017

The result of this redesign was a success: a 50% increase in size was achieved compared to 2013, "with a minimum font size that ensures optimal readability, with all the relevant network information for passengers and with a folding design that keeps it as pocket-size", the designer points out.

Currently, the design and management of these versions of the pocket map are carried out by Metro de Madrid's Marketing Service, which is also responsible for the production of special editions, such as the one recently developed with the Madrid Publishers' Association: the Metro Literary Map, in which the names of the stations were changed to literary titles chosen by Metro readers and passengers.

These special editions include the maps produced for Metro's 95th anniversary, the map series for the Centenary of the underground network and the special edition of the Gran Vía station. As David Lozano points out, "we know that the pocket map is a piece that the public likes a lot, and there are even many people who collect them. For this reason, we pay special attention to the design of the covers, which are very successful in the case of special editions of commemorative plans.

Plano Literario

Plano de 2018 con publicidad de La Tienda de Metro de Madrid y una foto antigua del templete de Gran Vía

Plano conmemorativo del 95 aniversario de Metro de Madrid

The latest innovation has arrived in 2022, as Metro de Madrid has begun to disseminate the pocket map in digital format in stations, using a QR code displayed at the passenger service points, which will soon be extended to the entire network.

Users will find two types of QR codes to get the map: the first will enable direct downloading, while the second will be used to download the official Metro de Madrid app which, in addition to including the map, gives access to a number of very useful features, such as the search for the nearest station, the calculation of journeys or the train schedule at the different stations.

The paper pocket map will be kept and will continue to be available at stations. In fact, we plan to continue to produce the usual special editions, with commemorative designs or designs alluding to certain events or historical moments.

Cartel con los códigos QR para descargar el plano de Metro

Metro maps and their designs are an attraction in themselves for many people, who keep and collect them as genuine objects of desire, due to fondness for their history, their evolution and the themes they contain. Metro maps have played and continue to play an important role for thousands of Madrilenians who use them every day, and they are also an important part of Metro's image.

It is an element the people of Madrid love, as demonstrated by the fact that it was chosen in 2010, by popular vote, as one of the elements to be preserved as a symbol of Madrid in the time capsule that was buried under the monument to Cervantes, with the Euro, the Constitution and the map of Madrid.

The Metro map is much more than just a useful tool: it is a symbol of the identity of Metro and Madrid that has endured over time, now also in digital format.

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