Circular tube maps are appearing at some London Underground stations as part of an advertising campaign from a phone company promoting a circle feature on their new phones.

The temporary redesign champions the new Circle to Search with Google feature – a new feature on the Samsung Galaxy S24 smartphone, where users can search for anything shown on their phone screen without switching apps. Yes, it’s an advert, but also one that’s a bit playful with an iconic element of the London Underground and at least the service being promoted has a suitable tie-in with the way its been promoted on the tube.

While not replacing the current Tube map, it shows all 11 London Underground lines, and also temporarily shows the Circle line as the ‘Circle to Search’ line.

A few interesting things to note:

The Elizabeth line, DLR and London Overground aren’t included in the map.
The Cable Car has been included in the label but not on the map and isn’t carrying the IFS Cloud branding.
The Green Park tube station interchange accurately shows the long gap between the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines.

As part of a two-week promotional, the limited-edition map will be on display on Circle line platforms at five stations:

King’s Cross
Liverpool Street

At Kings Cross station, the advertising takeover will be the largest of its kind, reaching everyone who travels through the station over the next two weeks. The two glass entrances at Victoria Underground station will also be creatively wrapped with the limited-edition map, as well as feature bespoke roundels highlighting the Circle to Search line to further promote the partnership.

It’s not the first time the tube map has been turned into circles, as there have been previous unofficial variants, notably by mapping expert Maxwell Roberts, and even way back to the Paris Metro in 1936.

While some maps on platforms will be changed to this limited-edition design, there will still be traditional Harry Beck maps available in the station and in-train announcements, announcements within the stations and staff on platforms will continue to help customers should they require it.

Although this is a commercial promotion reimaging the tube map, what if it turns out that people prefer the circular version? Remember that Harry Beck’s famous map was initially a short trial run, and it was almost a surprise to the transport boses that the public liked the “circuit diagram” layout which is today such a classic.

In a hundred years, could people celebrate the centenary of the much-loved circular tube map?


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