MapCarte 162/365: An American Watershed by John Grimwade, 2003

MapCarte162_grimwadeMany maps are designed for multiple purposes and, increasingly, basemaps and other core maps that sit behind thematic overlays are designed with flexibility in mind. However, they are rarely designed for the specific task in hand and that can often result in a compromise between the graphical structure, colour and typography of the basemap and whatever someone else is placing atop.

One-off maps don’t suffer these potential problems from a cartographic design perspective. The map-maker can literally begin with a blank canvas and design the whole range of information to act harmoniously. Here, John Grimwade has created a beautiful medium scale map of the Everglades in Florida CA used in a Condé Nast Traveler magazine article. His use of colour is particularly impressive because with an extremely limited pallete he’s managed to imbue the map with rich detail and character. He uses white linework to great effect and dark greys and a rusty red for accents and hierarchy. The composition works well with clear insets and a graphic at the foot of the page that explains the ecology in cross-section.

One-off maps have the scope to be more attuned to the cartographic task in hand rather than relying on the hit-and-miss of mashing up a map using third-party maps. Done well they can provide delightful single-purpose maps.

More of John Grimwade’s excellent work on his web site here.

MapCarte 30/365: Tourist Editions of the One Inch map by Ordnance Survey, 1950s/60s


By the middle of the twentieth century, developments in surveying, photogrammetry, cartographic reproduction and printing technology had modernised medium scale topographic mapping. Ordnance Survey’s popular One-inch to the mile series provided the foundation for various tourist editions that demonstrated the mapping technology using the dramatic geography of the united kingdom’s most scenic and varied landscapes. The example here is from the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Tourist Map (1:63,360) and illustrates the accurate contouring that characterised the work but also the way in which the design effectively captures both high and low relief areas.

The maps could have merely illustrated contours for representing relief but they added purple/grey hill shading for the shaded slopes and a light yellow-buff for the lit slopes that gave character to the slopes and which mimic, to some extent, the purples often seen on heather-clad slopes. Pale green tints are applied to lowland areas. This map would not have worked as well with Imhof-inspired blue hues better suited to mountainous areas and demonstrates that the geography of an area should in part lead the map-maker to make choices in depiction that relate to specifics and not just cartographic principles. There’s a subtlety in the colour choice that works particularly well on this map.