Harry Beck’s famous London Underground map is more than just a handy guide for getting from Bond Street to Stepney Green. It’s a master class in colour-coded simplicity. A perfect example of how complex information can be cleverly condensed into a concise and convenient format.

Here’s how you can apply the principles of Beck’s maps to your own marketing and design.

Anything can be colour coded

The real genius behind the Underground maps is their use of colour coding to represent the individual lines. This minimises the effort required when trying to plan out a route. Allowing for the reader’s eyes to easily follow a track from one end to the other without having to concentrate too hard. And making it harder to get lost in the confusion of lines and station names.

How to apply it: use different colours to represent different groupings of information in a product brochure or on a webpage. A classic example would be the use of different colours in a home furnishings catalogue to differentiate between kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom furniture.

Navigation and recognition

Imagine you’ve never been on the London Underground before. And you want to get from Regents Park to Piccadilly Circus. You ask a local for help. “You want the Bakerloo line,” they say. “Which one’s that?” you ask. “The brown one.” Chances are you’ll forget all about the Bakerloo bit and work entirely from the colour. That’s because you can seek out and recognise the colour faster than you would the name.

Think about navigation whenever you’re putting together marketing materials with large amounts of text and data. Especially if different parts of it are going to apply to different groups of people. Say for example you’re a school looking to put together a prospectus. To make navigating the brochure easier, you could use one colour to highlight all the information that’s relevant to junior students. Another colour for senior students. And two more colours for staff and parents. 

How to apply it: use colour coding to guide specific readers through a document without exposing them to information that isn’t relevant to them. This will maximise the effectiveness of your marketing.

Worried about information overload in your brochures or marketing documents? Get in touch to see how Red Square can help with simplifying through colour.