MapCarte 194/365: Three approaches to the U.S. By Richard Edes Harrison, 1940


Richard Edes Harrison’s illustrations and, particularly, his fine illustrative maps have adorned countless magazine articles. This example for Fortune magazine shows three alternative approaches to the USA from Berlin, Tokyo and Caracas. The maps used a curved projection to show the US as it might sit on a globe but with exaggerations that made the foreground almost planimetric. The mid-ground was generally the focus of the piece and the distant curved over the horizon.

Colours are applied in a semi-realistic style to mimic landcover and the typography, as with all Harrison’s work is exquisitely applied by hand. There is, however, a somewhat sinister aspect to this map in the sense that the three approaches are viewed as if from the perspective of a potential enemy attack. The short passages of text postulate the route of a possible enemy and where their likely route might take them.

More of Harrison’s work for Fortune Magazine here.

MapCarte 140/365: Historical map of Los Angeles by Gerald Eddy, 1929

MapCarte140_losangelesIt’s often difficult to capture a range of different events, that occurred at different times that have contributed to growth of a region. More normally, we see single themes such as how industry has developed, or how transportation networks have developed. We then have to piece together an overall view.

This map of the early 1900s does things a little differently and presents 20 or so major events that led to the growth of Los Angeles. There is no indication of time other than the labels that accompany different vignettes. The map, then, explains the historical development as a collage of events that happened at different times but which collectively have their place in the historical context of the city.

The map makes good use of a progressive projection that curves away from a plan-oblique at the foot to an oblique view at the horizon. This gives a way to accentuate and focus on the study area as well as highlight the importance of Los Angeles by making it larger in relation to the rest of the layout. There’s a good amount of detailed topographic detail, particularly the mountain ranges beautifully depicted along with lush valleys and barren desert. The vignettes occupy space sensibly and are made to fit the available space. For instance, the Stage Line of 1851 is shown relatively large not because it was necessarily more important but because the desert has no other defining detail…so it is used as a space-filler as much as anything.

The vignettes are well drawn, mostly as side elevations, and create a certain dynamism to the map showing a region of growth and importance. Railroads are clearly represented and the typographic components sit well on the landscape.

Eddy uses a great deal of artistic license but does so to a high standard. An illustrative map that tells a simple story.

MapCarte 134/365: Savile Row by Katherine Baxter, 2006

MapCarte134_savilleIllustrative maps are often those we naturally gravitate towards as pieces of art precisely because that’s their primary objective. Rather than being documents we navigate by or from which we recover information and interpret some statistical pattern in data, they exist simply to engage. Done well, illustrative maps are beautiful pieces of artistic work. There are few people who make pictorial maps a centerpiece of their work but artist and illustrator Katherine Baxter loves maps.

Baxter’s fascination with aerial views of the world has given her a focus for many of her illustrations. They have appeared in countless media, newspapers, magazines and books as illustrations, demonstrating a mastery of the axonometric projection. The axonometric is a perfect way to illustrate urban environments since it preserves scale across the entire image. Her work often details architectural detail and this example of Saville Row, London, for Cream magazine shows the attention to detail that makes her work exquisite.

The majority of buildings are depicted as boots, jackets or other tailored items indicative of the Saville Row proprietors. Street and store labels are delightfully drawn, some as clothing labels but all at perfect angles in line with the overall composition. The gardens are shown as a piece of material with chalked out lines and tailor’s scissors. Even the north arrow is made from neck ties.

It’s a delightful illustration and typical of the style Baxter has perfected and which she demonstrates in a wide range of her maps. Art meets Carte and proof positive that illustrators can find a rich seam of work in basing their work on maps to create maps.

More of Baxter’s work can be seen on her web site here.

MapCarte 126/365: Contagion by Hasaim Hussein, 2009

MapCarte126_husseinUsing a map as the backdrop on which you drape a striking thematic overlay is common practice in cartography. Maps do not have to be the containers of data, they can simply be the framework on which other information is laid out. Of course, it helps considerably that the overlay has some spatial component else the map would be rather pointless.

Hasaim Hussein has created a striking map showing the likely transmission path in space and time of three of the world’s most deadly contagious diseases, leprosy, smallpox and malaria. Matching the subject with the symbology is an easy way to convey a sense of the map’s data so the use of red arteries (for leprosy) and blue veins ( for smallpox) work well as the tendrils flow across the world. Central Africa is the origin of leprosy and northern Africa the origin for smallpox. Malaria doesn’t spread in the same way so, instead of transmission lines, it’s represented as areas of modern endemic malaria.

The visual balance is well executed in this work. The origin and density of the transmission lines is central and the map layout balances very well around this central fulcrum. The visual centre of the map is just above the graphical centre and this map layout hangs off that point perfectly. Contrast and hierarchy are also carefully managed with a light grey background map giving way to vibrant foreground colours. The origins and flows are simple to locate and follow and the various major time periods and places are linked to the main flow lines not just with a small unobtrusive leader line but also through matching the text colour to the disease and using small simple pictographs. These all help to focus the attention and enable us to move easily across the map from one recognisable component to another, related recognisable component.

A map tends to be read in parallel with the eye struggling to find an anchor and then figure out how to proceed. the secret with many good maps is to structure the work to help the eye and brain read as if the work was in serial (much like words on a page). By cleverly using structure you can make a complex pattern be easily read and digested. North arrows and scale bars? Absolutely no need on this type of map.

MapCarte 69/365: The World According to Standard by Richard Harrison, 1940

MapCarte69_harrisonArtists and illustrators owe as much to cartography as cartography does to them. Here, Richard Edes Harrison’s double page spread in the May 1940 issue of Fortune Magazine shows the world as it exists for Standard Oil. The map owes much to earlier flow maps such as Charles Minard’s such as Export of British Coal map but as a magazine illustration the map-maker can apply a little more artistic license.

Known for his innovative cartographic solutions, Harrison developed a projection that suited the map’s needs. The maps are based on a warped azimuthal equidistant projection centred on the Poles which allows the northern hemisphere to appear at the visual centre. This approach places North America and the main flow lines of oil distribution central in the map layout. The projection gives space for Standard’s key production areas in Texas and Venezuela which supports the pictorial elements.

The map takes on the appearance of a drop of liquid and the overall layout is well supported by flags, drawn proportional to the dead-weight gross tonnage of the tanker fleet, and a well constructed legend in the top right. Text curves according to the projection which supports the overall design aesthetic.


MapCarte 56/365: Die Landschaft Toggenburg by Johann Scheuchzer, 1710

MapCarte56_scheuchzerOne often forgets the amount of work that was required to prepare a map in centuries past and this example illustrates the craft of copper-engraving as a method by which maps were drawn. The copper plate was engraved as a mirror image to prepare for printing…and the craftsmanship was down to highly skilled engravers. The results were often highly illustrative.

Here, Johann Jakob Scheuchzer prepared a beautiful map of the landscape of Toggenburg district, St. Gallen Canton. It shows the location of major topographic features such as cities and towns but the map belies the continuous religious strife that engulfed the area in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. What it does do is present the mountains as an illusive and highly symbolic, almost mythical element of the natural landscape. The reasons for such a representation were to give a sense of place to the home of ‘dragon sightings’ catalogued extensively by Scheuchzer in the early 1700s.

The marriage of mythology and copper plate artistry creates a magical picture of the dramatic mountainscape.