There’s something quite timeless about an atlas. A compendium of maps that are designed to show something of the geography, conditions of life, peoples and nations so that we may better understand the world around us. That’s not to say that atlases are all similarly designed and many take on a quite mechanistic, almost sterile approach to each map page. This example, however, exemplifies all that is good about making a book of maps. The World Geo-Graphic Atlas was commissioned as a privately printed atlas by the Container Corporation of America. It’s rare and rarely seen which is a shame since it is a masterpiece of cartographic design. The Corporation had already produced a previous atlas that was much in demand and believed companies “may occasionally step outside of its recognized field of operations in an effort to contribute modestly to the realms of education and good taste.” The atlas mirrored the principles of design and visualization in its products, offices, factories and advertising.
Renowned graphic designer Herbert Bayer oversaw the production of thousands of images, drawings and maps to make each double-page spread unique, individually suited to the theme and a work of art in their own right. Bayer brought a sense of precision to match the beauty of his work all in his usual collage-Bauhaus style. The hyphen in the atlas title was deliberate given the work was as much about graphics as it was about geo-graphics. Bayer, of course, was widely known for his work in a range of other artistic endeavors as a painter, photographer, sculptor, interior designer and architect. His graphic design showcases a reductive minimalist approach with a crisp visual style and Sans Serif typefaces. This atlas illustrates his approach perfectly and contains a fantastic mix of maps that use projections to perfection, contain a good balance of content and where each page is considered as a whole.
The following short video by Nate Burgos (designfeast.com) explores a little of the beauty of the atlas
The atlas can also be viewed in hi-res detail at the David Rumsey map collection site here.