Paper cut tube line

I’m sure you’ve seen lots of variations on Harry Beck’s iconic tube map, but have you seen a forced-perspective papercut tube map before? If not, you haven’t lived.

I bought a Silhouette Cameo for musical reasons last year, and Andy Hudson-Smith, being the digital visioneer he is, saw those outputs and snapped one up. If you’re not familiar with the cameo, it’s like a printer (actually more like a plotter) with a tiny blade instead of an ink head. You can import .svg files into their premium software, and then cut the shape directly into card, vinyl, paper – anything you could cut with scissors or a craft knife.

I’ve seen some interesting papercut maps and wanted to start create some for the lab – there are a fair few cartographers around here, and the idea appealed. Adding tactile and dimensional qualities to a physical map is one potential effect in papercut – it’s a bit like a steampunk 3D printer in reverse.


The first map I did was of London’s waterway  – this was relatively easy to pull together. London’s iconic tube map was next in our sights; it’s a good balance between simple and complex, enough to create interest without destroying our cameo blade. Rendering it in paper (with the help of Ollie O’Brien) was satisfying. But it didn’t look 3D enough – photographed or examined from a distance, it looked like a print. How to effect a 3D map which captures the paperyness of the paper?

2DtubeThe solution I came up with was forced perspective. Each successive zone of the tube surrounds a larger geographical region, so if I printed these out the same size (or in retrospect, I could have made them successively smaller), I’d be forced to separate the layers physically so that perspective made zone 1 look smaller than zone 2 and so on. This would also force the viewer to move around to find the optimum viewing angle at which everything lines up properly.

I worked on the London tube map in Illustrator, masking the zones off individually and including a continuous circuit at the zone boundary which would give the structure more stability and allow for lines which terminate in zone 3 (without the inner ring of the zone 2/3 boundary, these would just fall off). Then I scaled them to the same size and sent them to the cameo.

At the moment they’re hung with a bit of blue tack on my wall, and nylon thread suspending them from micstands in my office, but some cheap Ikea frames with a thick edge might be a better permanent solution. I’ve got a few ideas for my next project; it would be nice to move away from the tube map as I don’t want tfl getting cross. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your ideas for my next papercut project… and here is a gallery of the components for the 3D tube map.

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