The Lance Wyman-inspired station icons for line nine on the Mexico City Metro. Image by the author.

The same designer who brought us the Metrorail map's now iconic thick lines and large circles also designed the map for Mexico City's Metro. And while the final version of our map didn't include one particularly stylish element, Mexico City's did.

Both maps are the work of celebrated graphic designer Lance Wyman. On Wyman's original Metrorail design, each station also had an icon related to the region’s monuments and history. They didn't end up on the map we use here, but Wyman made a similar design scheme for the Mexico City Metro that's still in use today.

Wyman's proposed icons for the DC Metro map. Image by Lance Wyman.

Best known for his work on a visual "identity" of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Wyman has left his mark on urban and transport graphics around the world in the decades since.

The Mexico City Metro icons were first used when the system opened. The first line opened in 1969, with with lines two and three opening a year later.

Wyman's original iconography for the Mexico City Metro line one. Image by Lance Wyman.

“[The icons] communicated better than language for the obvious reason of not having to be translated, but it also gave you a really quick visual reference to something, and the icons were designed well," Wyman told CityLab in a 2015 interview.

For example, the icon for the airport terminal station is an airplane with a control tower - signalling to riders that this is where they alight to catch a flight.

The Mexico City airport Metro station icon. Image by the author.

Elsewhere, Wyman used symbols of Mexico City's history and culture, like an aqueduct or the opera house, for nearby stations.

"Where the system really works is when you’re inside a train," Wyman told CityLab. "They have a line map, and this came from designing the first line for our system, over the car doors. When you come into the station the line map is sequential with the icons. And then in the station on the walls they have the icon for that station."

Beyond the Metro

Mexico City has expanded Wyman's icons to all 12 of its Metro lines, as well as the burgeoning bus rapid transit system, Metrobús, that opened in 2005. 

The Mexico City Metrobús line one strip map with Wyman-inspired icons. Image by the author.

The icons continue to be applicable today, with Wyman explaining to CityLab how they fit our life contemporary lives.

"We navigate our lives now with icons, illiterate or not," he said. "Now it’s a matter of designing the systems and designing better icons and better systems of using them... when it works, it’s like writing poetry. You capture the essence of something that’s important."

The icons are an integral and unique part of Mexico City's Metro system that should not be missed.

Thumbnail: Image by the author.

Edward Russell is an air transport reporter by day with a passion for all things transportation. He is a resident of Eckington and tweets frequently about planes, trains and bikes.