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A familiar map
Activity 2

A familiar map

Harry Beck, by Ken Garland.
Text A
Text A
Our commutes were revolutionized in the 1930s by one unassuming engineer. His name was Harry Beck, and he had a dream. A dream about a map that would shape Harry’s future.

Harry understood Londoners don’t care about geographical accuracy: we just want to navigate the Underground’s mass of overgrown vines as quickly as possible and without having to speak to each other. And Harry gave us the tools we needed, arming us with a cartographical machete. In 1931, he produced possibly the most familiar map on the planet - the London Underground.

“Harry Beck: the Man Who Drew London”, Rachel Smethers,, 2016.
Text B
Text B
This year is the 150th anniversary of London’s Tube. [...] Beck, who died in 1974 aged 72, worked out that people did not need to know the true distance between stops.

The plaque will be unveiled by London Transport Museum director Sam Mullins who said: “Beck’s map was revolutionary in its simplicity. It has become a London icon and influenced the design of many Metro maps across the globe, as well as being the inspiration for many contemporary artists and designers.”. “Harry Beck: the Man Who Drew London”, Rachel Smethers,

“London's Tube map creator Harry Beck gets blue plaque”,, 2013.
Text C
Text C
And yet when Beck first presented his ‘diagram’ to Underground management, they were unsure. Lines running horizontally, vertically or at 45-degree angles were plotted on a grid. Eschewing geography, it looked like a cross between an electric circuit diagram and a Mondrian painting. While it was no longer possible to tell the distance or precise geographic location of stations at a glance, Beck reasoned that this was unimportant. [...]

In 1933, with a spirit of modernisation in the air, the time was right to see how the public would respond to Beck’s radical ‘diagram’. After a test run of 500 copies were distributed from a few select stations in 1932, 700,000 copies of the map were printed in 1933. It proved an instant success.

“The London Underground Map: the Design That Shaped a City”, Jonathan Glancey,, 2015.
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You are in charge of one text.

Workbook p.26

Look at the picture first. Compare it to the one from activity 1. What do you think it is?

Read your text and pick out the key information (facts and figures).

Sum up what you understand in a few sentences.

Let's talk this out!

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Share your findings with your classmates and learn about the other texts

Why was Harry Beck’s invention so revolutionary and innovative? What impact did he have on the rest of the world?

Together, build a timeline of the creation of the Tube map.
You can use an online timeline generator or make it look like a Tube map.

Useful vocabulary: It was really innovative…
It is today used… Nowadays, everybody knows…

Over to you!

Mythical minute

Let’s use what you have learnt in and / or in !

You are a curator at the London Transport Museum. Using the underground map as a visual support, record a presentation about its creation.

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