Q&A - The Creative Process Behind Mike Bell's Unique Tube Maps

1. Why did you start this?

I started creating these maps out of a deep passion for music, film, and data visualization, combined with my professional background in show and event design. The initial idea was born during lockdown, serving as a creative outlet and a way to reconnect with my interests in a unique format. It was also a response to my ongoing neurological condition.. talking of which..

2. How does your brain work?

My process involves immersing myself fully into the subject matter, whether it's the discography of a band or the storyline of a film. This deep-dive helps me uncover intricate connections and pivotal moments, which I then translate into visual narratives. It's a blend of creativity, research, and precision.

3. Isn't this 'just' Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees?

While intrigued by the concept of interconnectedness found in Pete Frame's family trees, my maps extend beyond, showing not only band members, but also the huge number more of contributing artists across any studio album. My tube / underground band maps are not only about showcasing relationships, but also about telling stories through a distinct visual medium that combines the complexity of a subject with aesthetic appeal.

4. How long does a map take to plot?

The time to plot a map varies significantly depending on its complexity. It can take anywhere from a few days to a week. This includes thorough research, design iterations, and the meticulous use of data filtering and then Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to ensure accuracy and visual impact.

5. Do you do commissions?

Yes, I do sometimes take on commissioned work. My Levellers and Dire Straits maps were produced for specific band members as gifts from their families. Whether it's a personal favourite band, a beloved film, or another subject of interest, I enjoy working closely with clients to bring their visions to life in the form of unique, detailed maps.

6. Do you have a bit of software that does it all for you?

No .. although I wish I did! While I use CAD software to plot the maps and ensure precision, and spreadsheets to filter data research, the software is just a tool. The creative process, from research to design conception and the selection of elements that tell the story, relies heavily on manual effort and artistic intuition. There's no software that automatically creates these maps; each one is the result of a hands-on, detailed process.