The schematic London underground map — or Tubemap — was invented in the 1930s by an electrical engineer called Harry Beck. At the time it was revolutionary. Predictably the authorities didn't like it. But the public loved it, and the Tubemap was born.
Harry, and the British public, had realised the power of stripping away information. Precise geographical information was actually obscuring the data people needed. Proper maps were noise. People didn't need to know where their interchange station was geographically — simply where it was within a sequence.
I first created a Tubemap-type graphic while working at the Financial Times in 2009. Russia had turned off the Ukraine's gas supply, and many in Europe wondered whether they would be affected. I took geographical gas pipeline data and turned it into a tubemap using Flash (the technology looks antiquated now). Hovering on one country revealed which countries supplied them with gas, and who all the intermediate countries were. It also highlighted the countries that came next in the sequence, effectively dependent on its predecessor for gas.
The next time I used the Tubemap design was while working at the then FSA (UK financial regulator) in 2012. I had been mandated to project manage the design of risk processes for the new FCA organisation. Struggling to make sense of traditional A1 thin-lined process maps, I drew my final design up on a single page of A4 using the tubemap approach. This received such favourable comment that I thought a dynamic version would be really useful for risk management and for processes. Over the years, the use cases have expanded to energy, transport, supply chain and even decision making.