Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Meet the Eighth Grader Who Designs Subway Systems

October 15, 2014
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Meet the Eighth Grader Who Designs Subway Systems
Ivan Specht started out creating subway maps as gift for his father. Metro-Ology
While most are worried about the advent of high school, this teen is turning heads with his side business.

What do most of us think of when traveling through a city? Maybe it’s congestion, pollution and headaches. And while some urban planners are looking for ways to improve life on the streets, perhaps it’s time to take a look at what’s happening underground.

That’s exactly what one designer started doing. The interesting part? He isn’t even in high school, yet he’s already designing transit systems for cities that don’t have underground public transportation.

What started as a simple hobby for eighth grader Ivan Specht has now turned into a brand (Metro-ology) with a website, posters and t-shirt designs.

His first subway design was for Austin, Texas and was given as a Father’s Day present to his dad. From there, inspiration took off and Specht produced 10 more, including plans for San Antonio and New Orleans.

So, how did an eighth grader became an infrastructure prodigy? According to Specht, it’s just always been a passion.

“Ever since I was about five, I have been fascinated by mass transit systems — especially that of New York City, which is where I now live,” Specht tells Fast Co. Exist. “[My Dad] really liked the gift. So much so he suggested I turn it into a summer project and business, which is exactly what I have done.”

To create each design, Specht uses Google Maps Maker. No detail is left unnoticed, and his designs are as intricate as that of the New York City subway system. In addition, much of his inspiration comes from Harry Beck’s London Underground map.

“Usually, I try to concentrate the lines in the city centers. I then re-draw the map in Photoshop, using 45-degree angles, which I think make the maps look much cleaner and more graphically pleasing. Lastly, I add a legend, as well as reference points like highways and rivers,” Specht explains to Fast Co. Exist.

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Taking a look at the designs, it’s clear that Sprecht’s transit plans have the potential to be turned into reality. Which city will be the first to call him?

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