MapCarte 360/365: Hugg-a-planet by Peacetoys, 1982-present

MapCarte360_huggTis the season…so another MapCarte entry that looks at the design of a toy based on a map. Sometimes the simplest ideas turn out to be the best and producing a globe made as a pillow has been a commercial hit for the designers and manufacturers of Hugg-a-Planet. The design is fun, useful and memorable as the central message is we can wrap our arms around the world and give it a hug. It’s an object that supports all sorts of play activities in young children and the map itself is designed to be colourful and attractive. This doesn’t need perfect cartography…just the sense of the shape of the world that children can get to grips with, literally.

Of course, it has a secondary purpose as an educational aid and allows children to begin to learn about geography by using the hugg-a-planet to show where countries and places are. Beyond childhood, hugg-a-planet has become somewhat iconic as a metaphor for global peace. It resonates with those seeking to explore enviromentalism and as pleasing object to have lying around as a cushion with meaning.

MapCarte360_hugg2It’s a fun toy but one which has been used and shared by Presidents as well as global business and political leaders and televison, movie and musical celebrities. It’s even found its way onto the International Space Station where it began it’s orbit in 2009.

You can find out more about Hugg-a-Planet at the website here.

MapCarte 359/365: Europe divided into its Kingdoms by John Spilsbury, 1766


Merry Christmas map geeks! What better way to celebrate the day than to highlight the use of maps and cartography in toys. Here, not just the earliest map used in a jigsaw but arguably also one of the very first jigsaws. John Spilsbury was an apprentice to Thomas Jefferys, Rotal Geographer to King George III, and believed to be the first commercial manufacturer of the jigsaw puzzle. His earliest jigsaws were referred to as ‘dissected maps’ and this set a trend in jigsaws for many years to come. Indeed, you can still find maps as a common theme in modern jigsaws.

The puzzles were initially produced to be aids in geography teaching. Countries were dissected along national boundaries so piecing the puzzle together allowed children to learn how the different countries connected to one another. Beyond the land, Spilsbury continued the dissection along lines of latitude and longitude.

A great use of maps. A brilliant educational aid and also an early indicator of the commercial value of using maps as a medium for a non-cartographic product. Spilsbury’s dissected puzzles were a commercial success. Spilsbury went on to create many such puzzles and created them in eight themes: the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland.