Is it possible, or even desirable to constantly strive for originality in cartographic work? It’s suggested that there are only about 7 major story lines that one might fit any film to (boy meets girl…you know the rest). Much the same might be said about maps. Truly original, innovative mapping is very rare indeed and the passage of time makes the search for originality even harder. But why do we place so much value on originality? Many great maps borrow heavily from what has gone before and time and again we can spot lineage to other maps or other map-makers. Sometimes there’s a direct hat-tip and sometimes it’s merely clever ‘theft’ but if it makes a great end product does it matter?
Take this really great graphic which shows nothing more than the world time zones. they’ve been mapped countless times before yet this example is elegant and eye-catching. It uses the most striking colour combination of black and yellow as its main theme and has a neat motif of the aeroplane travelling east and west along the equator while a similarly styled perpendicular line focuses on the Brazilian time zone. Is this design new? Well no. It’s based strongly on the much earlier design by Erik Nitsche for General Dynamics (a postcard from 1955) shown below.
Asta and Scarpellini are entirely open about their inspiration and it works. Their work has a strong aesthetic and clean lines. It’s modern in appearance and works well at different sizes. It uses a Goode Homosoline projection..generally under-used but visually different with it’s large interruptions and which exhibits a strong form in its own right.
A simple layout, minimalist linework and strong, bold typographic elements give this work a clean, vibrant structure and appearance. What it teaches us as map-makers is that borrowing great design ideas from other classic design can translate well and create new, beautiful work in its own right.