MapCarte 266/365: Wonder map of Melbourne by John Power Studios, 1934

MapCarte266_melbourneIn 1914 Macdonald Gill drew his Wonderground map of London (featured in MapCarte 15). It brought a cartoonesque aesthetic to the streets of London and included pictorial elements and other delightful characters that produced a playful, whimsical but detailed and well marshalled map. Twenty years later, this map appears. It’s a map of Melbourne, Australia which displays a remarkable resemblance to Gill’s original. Considering we’ve already discussed Gill’s map, why is it necessary to include a derivative?

In design terms, there’s very little that is genuinely new in cartography. Most of what we seen owes something to what has gone before either in terms of some small element or, perhaps, in its overall style. Taken to extreme, derivative works can become merely pastiches (see the perpetual use of Beck’s subway map as a basis for alternative cartographies for instance) but sometimes they reflect an homage to a particular approach.  There’s a fine balance between homage, pastiche and plagiarism but here, the authors have shown a keen eye for their own landscape and geography and created a map in the style of Gill’s but with a clear Australian dimension.


In this sense it’s worth promoting the idea that design doe not necessarily need to be wholly original to work. Many great cartographic effects and styles get re-used and re-imagined. New places and new ideas can add to the canon but in the main, maps tend to show subtle or blatant lineage.