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Metro Cards: An Undervalued Medium All Around the World

new york branding sports graphic design agencyA few weeks ago, I wrote about Barbara Kruger’s limited edition metro card. So, I started thinking about MetroCards. Almost every person in a city has them. When you visit a city with a metro line, chances are you walk away with a card in your pocket. As such, they are a powerful place to display images, designs, and propaganda. I cannot think of a better way to reach an entire city- and even if you disagree with the design of a Metro Card, practicality forces you to have and use it anyway (at least if you live in a city) Some MetroCards are very utilitarian, but they could be beautiful. When I researched metro cards around the world, however, I was impressively underwhelmed by the designs of metro cards. Considering how efficient metro cards could be to communicate an idea about the city they belong to, many cards I found to be outdated looking, ugly, or just plain boring. Below are some of the metro cards that I found interesting.


The Toronto metro has a daily ridership of around 950,700 and opened in 1954. Personally, I love the Toronto metro cards. The card is practical yet visually pleasing. It is streamlined, modern and understated.

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The Tokyo Underground Railway was built in 1927. This is one of my favorite metro card designs. It is used by 6.33 million people a day.

new york branding sports graphic design agency


The London Tube was the world’s first subway system. It first opened in 1863 with the Metropolitan line, which is where the term ‘metro’ comes from. Regardless, their current cards’ design is modern and clean.

New york branding sports graphic design agency


When I searched for images of the Moscow subway system, my jaw dropped. It is highly ornate and luxurious, a far cry from the wonderfully familiar but unfortunately rat-infested New York subway system. 

new york branding sports graphic design agency

new york branding sports graphic design agency


The Tunnelbana network is full of art and beautiful architecture, but it also happens to be one of the most expensive metro systems in the world.

new york branding sports graphic design agency

Washington, DC

The Washington DC metro line is the third busiest metro line in the United States and opened in 1976. Its design features illustrations of Washington’s iconic buildings and monuments.

new york branding sports graphic design agency


The Dubai Metro opened in 2009. It was the world’s longest driverless metro system until 2016.

new york branding sports graphic design agency

What do you think? These are the nicest Metro Cards that I could find. Overall, I am not as impressed as I should be for many of the designs for cards seen by millions of people every day. It will be interesting to see what happens to metro cards (and their designs!) as technology begins to phase out the use of physical cards in subway stations.

November 19, 2017

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