Isochrone map design inspiration

by Niharika Sisodia
on Feb 11, 2019 9:05:01 AM

An isochrone is a shape that connects points relating to the same time. For example, the image above shows where's reachable within 1 hour from Birmingham city centre, UK when using public transport.


Maps can be difficult to understand. Isochrones can be a good way of displaying large amounts of information. However, the isochrone map design needs to be clear, informative and eye-catching. Let’s take a look at some isochrone map designs that get it right.


The mapmaker, Francis Galton, created a series of isochrones maps starting from London and travelling around the world. Each colour corresponds to a range of days. These are shown in a key at the bottom of the page.


The use of a key:

  • Stops the map from becoming cluttered
  • Is easy to view and understand
  • Simplifies large amounts of information


The Malaria Atlas Project (MAP) is layered with multiple data sets to create a heat map showing how economic, educational, and health status is related to travel time to cities.


The use of colour means:

  • The user is not overwhelmed by detail.
  • The contrast makes the information clear.
  • The colour is highlighted by the black background.
  • Large amounts of data easy to understand


The TravelTime platform is an API that allows users to create isochrones maps by travel time using different modes of transport. The TravelTime platform search box uses a full sentence and asks the user to fill in the blanks.


This interface:

  • Guides the user through the search process
  • Allows the user to navigate the map
  • Helps the user understand the results


Following the initial isochrone display, the user is given further filter options, including adding a new shape.

The second search bar is displayed in a different colour.


By presenting the results in stages, the user can visualise relevant results on the isochrone map without becoming overwhelmed.

Isochrone shape

In 1914, John G. Bartholomew published “An Atlas of Economic Geography”, including isochrone maps.  The map below was intended to roughly estimate travel time from London. The isochrone shapes represent a broad travel time, such as ‘within 5 days’. These general ranges allow for smooth isochrone boundaries.

A smooth boundary is:

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Easier to understand
  • Allows large amounts of information to be displayed clearly

An exact isochrone perimeter can also be useful.

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 17.12.08

Exact boundaries allow users to:
  • Make sure their results are accurate
  • Display highly detailed results
  • Conduct a deeper analysis of travel times


Propertywide, the property site, can display a cross-section of isochrones for two users.
The use of a cross section to filter out the relevant results:
  • Makes it easy for the user to see which results are relevant
  • Greys out irrelevant information
  • Prevents the screen from becoming overcrowded

Make your own commute time map

To find out more about isochrones and to start creating travel time maps, visit the TravelTime platform.



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