More old mapping – Glasgow 1945

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From our library of old maps, here are some extracts from the 1945 Bartholomew’s Pocket Plan of Glasgow.

At PCGraphics we used these maps as the basis to create royalty free maps for clients in the UK by adding new, up to date information gleaned from street surveys and aerial photography.

This methodology has today largely been superseded by the widespread availability of street level photography, such as Google Street View, meaning that we don’t need to visit every town, city and area in the UK which we map. This saves time and, more importantly, money for the client.

Click on any of the thumbnails to view a larger image.

 

You can find out more about how we create our maps at PCGraphics by following this link to our website.

There are also other pages of old maps here on this blog:

Birmingham – as it was 60 years ago
More old maps
London 1939
Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Edinburgh
Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Glasgow

If you pop over to our Pinterest boards, along with loads of samples of up to date maps produced by PCGraphics, there’s also a whole board dedicated to old mapping.

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Career Choices

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Author – Sally Cooney, Production Director at PCGraphics (UK) Limited

Some Thoughts about Career Choices
(or  How I Became a Cartographer)

It was back in 1995 and I can remember sitting in the Careers Office of Southampton University in the January of my final year. They say that any student who reads Geography at University doesn’t know what career they what to go into, and they were right!

I’d had a great time at Southampton, including an expedition to the Arctic for a month (you can read more on that topic here), but I was looking for a career. I knew that I’d always loved geography, maps and drawing and set about trying to find something which combined all three. I had a flash of inspiration when I thought about the Cartographic Services within the University Geography Department, maybe I could make a career out of that?

I was accepted on an accelerated Masters course at Glasgow University which would “convert” me in to a Cartographer. As this was my second degree, I had to fund myself with a Career Development Loan (£6000 at that time) to pay for course fees and living for 12 months. Believe me, there’s nothing like paying for the course yourself to concentrate your mind! I had to be pretty sure that I’d get a job at the end of it all. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy much of my time in Glasgow, for me the spirit of being a student didn’t really apply as a postgraduate.

BSc_Graduation

Just before I finished my course in Sept 1996 I was offered my first job at ESR, a cartographic company in Byfleet, Surrey, as a Junior Technician. I was amazed that I could be paid for something I loved doing. It hardly seemed like work!

As a junior, the pay wasn’t great but I was making some headway in paying off my Career Development Loan. I spent most of that year drawing town plan maps for Thomson Directories, 400+ of them all over the country! I loved it, and the in-depth knowledge of that project would become very useful to us in the years that followed.

In October 1997, ESR was falling apart and a select few were invited from ESR to join Lovell Johns in Oxfordshire. This was a big step for me with a steep learning curve, but I advanced from a junior technician to be running some significant projects.

In September 1998 an opportunity became available to be more than just an employee. At 25, and with only 2 years cartographic experience, Paul, who had been my manager at both ESR and Lovell Johns, asked whether I wanted to be involved with his newly setup company, PCGraphics. I didn’t take long to decide. I wasn’t especially happy living away from home all week at Lovell Johns and this meant that I could move back to Surrey permanently where I’d bought a house in 1996.

Being a Director took some getting used to, especially in the early days of the company, but now we’re master of our own destiny, as they say, and life is a bit easier.

Cartography has been a great career for me but whether it’s so easy to get into these days is open to question. One of the previous articles on this blog talked about the demise of many of the larger cartographic companies over the past 15 years or so and, while there are still a number of mapping companies around, very few of them are the size they used to be, which does cut down the number of opportunities. But, if you’ve got a degree in Geography and, like me, don’t quite know what to do with it, then cartography is probably still worth considering.

 

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Cartography – a dying art?

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Cartography, the art and science of making maps, has been around for many thousands of years. Indeed, the oldest known map is dated at several thousand years BC. So, why would something that has been with us for such a long period of time be dying out and is it actually the case that the art of cartography is dying?

The short answer is no, cartography itself isn’t dying. There are probably more maps available today than at any time previously. Just look on the internet and you’ll find, without much effort at all, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps and countless others too, all covering the whole world and all available in various levels of detail. But, and this is perhaps the important part, it’s arguable that even though there’s so much cartography around, the profession of cartographer is becoming extinct.

So, what do we base this assertion on, that the there are less cartographers around these days even though there are maps just about everywhere you look?

One method is easy, just look at the employment figures from the largest map producer in the UK, Ordnance Survey. Over the years their numbers have dropped considerably. From published figures, in 2006 there were 1470 employees (and very few of this number would be cartographers) yet by 2011, only 5 years later, numbers had dropped by about a quarter to 1132, and that number is no doubt considerably lower today.

According to Wikipedia, the roots of Ordnance Survey go back to 1747, when the compilation of a map of the Scottish Highlands was proposed. From there, the Triangulation of Great Britain took place between 1783 and 1853, which gave us the basis of the Ordnance Survey maps we see today. 

Ordnance Survey is still a large organisation by most standards but most of the smaller cartographic companies have reduced in size too. Indeed, many small and medium sized cartographic companies have fallen by the wayside over the past 20 years. Even here at PCGraphics, going back 14 or so years, we used to permanently employ around 15 or more cartographers, whereas these days we operate a very small team and use freelancers when necessary. And all this when the number and variety of maps in the marketplace has risen dramatically.

MCE

(Back in the 1970’s, Mapping and Charting Establishment – MCE(RE) – was perhaps second only to Ordnance Survey in the number of cartographers it employed. This was the intake of new, trainee cartographers in 1972, around 50 of them, which was the usual number of trainees taken on each year at MCE. How many organisations take on that number of cartographers each year these days? None.)

What we have now though are huge databases of maps and satellite imagery (e.g. Google maps and Google Earth) and very few companies producing customised maps.

It would also be easy to argue that, even if cartography itself is not dying, the art of cartography is possibly dying. Why? Computers are certainly a part of it. Few would disagree that 30 years or so ago, when maps were drawn ‘by hand’, that it was an art. In fact, it was also very laborious, painstaking and expensive but it definitely was an art. These days, much of the art has gone out of cartography. Extracting an area from a large database and changing the specification (the colours, line widths etc) is hardly the cutting edge of artistic design.

There still are maps out there which have been artistically designed but, and here’s another part of the reason why they are in decline, they cost an arm and a leg to produce.

Occasionally at PCGraphics we get asked to produce what we term illustrative maps. These are maps that are not strictly cartographic but look more artistic and even, in some cases, hand drawn. These maps can be very pretty to look at, but the fact is that they aren’t always so user friendly and are very expensive to produce. Hence we don’t get asked to produce them very often.

So, there’s still a small number of cartographic companies such as us at PCGraphics out there producing customised mapping. But is what we are creating ‘art’? Possibly not, but it’s still a pretty good profession to be in, and, fortunately for us, there still is a market out there for people and companies who don’t want the same ubiquitous Google map as their competitor.

 

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Starting a Business

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Many of us dream of working for ourselves, being our own boss and making all the decisions instead of working for someone else. But how many people actually do it? This is our story of how we got started, the pitfalls, the traumas (and there were a few along the way), the things we’d never, ever do again and the satisfaction when things went right.

Our story actually started a short while before we formed the company in 1998. All three of the Directors who started the company had worked for other cartographic companies in the past, and we’d all also worked together at one time or another.

Our reasons for wanting to start the company were probably all different – whether it was dissatisfaction at where one of us was working, someone needing a new challenge or just the thought that we really couldn’t do any worse than some of the previous bosses we’d had and would hopefully actually be a bit better.

Anyway, the suggestion was made that we should go our own way and the three of us took the idea and ran with it. I’m not quite sure we knew where we were running to, but it felt good.

Then came the reality of company formation, accountants, Articles of Memorandum, business bank accounts, commercial Estate Agents, leases and solicitors. And, on top of that, work was coming in and maps had to be produced.

We struck lucky on the bank account, opening an account with the NatWest purely on the basis that one of us had a personal account with them. We were allocated a Business Advisor by the name of Brendan Minihane and he helped us enormously through those first months, and even for years afterwards. I know it’s not fashionable to praise banks these days, but some of his advice was invaluable and set us off in the right direction. Yes, he did try to sell us various add-ons, insurance and the like but I think he quickly got used to the answer ‘No, thanks’. Can’t blame the man for trying though.

The next big hurdle was office space. None of us had any experience of renting office space so we were flying by the seats of our pants. Fortunately, we fell on our feet with decent, modern offices in a converted church hall in Guildford and a flexible lease. It was at this time that we won our first big contract, with Thomson Directories. We had many other clients as well but it was the sheer bulk of work for Thomson’s that enabled us to quickly expand.

the_hall

(The Hall, Woking Road, Guildford – our first offices)

In fact, we expanded so quickly that within a short period of time we were employing fourteen full time staff and a number of freelancers too. Which was a problem in itself.

The problem wasn’t so much in actually employing people (we’d have input from solicitors and Human Resources experts to help with the legal side of things) and had many applications for employment. No, the real problem was finding the right people. We quickly learnt that a  University Degree was no guarantee of a person’s competence or even their ability to work in an office environment. Added to that, we were also looking for an ability to draw maps. We found some very good staff, but we found an awful lot of very poor ones too.

With the number of staff rising we made the decision to move to larger offices, this time to Old Woking, Surrey. We also took on two new salesmen and looked at finding new markets for our maps. Some time before this one of the Directors dropped out and we were down to the two Directors we have today, Sally and Paul Cooney.

westminster_court

(1 Westminster Court, Old Woking – our offices up until 2008)

With hindsight, moving offices was probably a mistake. But our biggest mistake was taking on a 10 year lease on the new offices. No-one can foresee the future and 10 years is an awful long time in business. It’s not that we weren’t doing ok, we were, but we kept thinking of the higher costs (higher rent, higher business rates, service charges etc) for the larger offices than we had previously and how much better off we’d have been.

Eventually we took the plunge and bought ourselves out of the remainder of the lease and changed the set up of the business, moving to using more freelance cartographers rather than permanent staff.

This had an immediate positive effect on the Company and we had some of our best years ever. It also coincided with the massive downturn in the UK economy (we’re talking 2008 here) but now, with our overheads substantially reduced, we were fairly immune to the forthcoming recession. Fortunately, we also had some major contracts during this period and the Company remained buoyant.

Switching away from permanent staff and working with freelancers also gave us the opportunity to move away from where we had been based in Surrey to the much more relaxed location of the Isle of Wight, which is where we are now.

Which brings us just about up to date.

We’ve learnt a lot over the last 16 years since starting the business. We’ve had a lot of highs and a few lows along the way. We’ve enjoyed drawing maps for a lot of household name companies (British Airways, Virgin, IKEA, Automobile Association, Thomson Directories and Thomas Cook to name but a few) plus thousands of much smaller businesses. Would we do it all over again? Almost certainly, but wouldn’t it be great to do it with the benefit of hindsight too!

 

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Thomson Directories – a tale of 400 towns

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It was in late 2000 that we first started work for Thomson Directories (TDL) at PCGraphics. We had only formed the company two years earlier in 1998, so taking on a prestigious contract such as this for TDL was a big step for a small, newly formed cartographic company.

thomsonlogo      pcg_small

The contract was to produce more than 400 detailed maps of UK town and city centres which were to be used in the TDL Directories that are delivered annually to nearly every home in the country. The Directories at that time had up to four or five maps in each publication.

Previously, TDL had used the Automobile Association Cartographic Department for the supply of maps but, for a number of reasons, TDL decided to look elsewhere for a supplier.  Fortunately, PCGraphics were in a good position as several of our cartographic staff  had already worked on the TDL maps – the Automobile Association subcontracted the drawing of the maps to a cartographic company in Surrey where a number of us had worked previously.

The requirement was to create ‘royalty free’ maps of each of the 400+ locations. At that time, to produce a royalty free map (which means a map free of all copyright issues), we had to purchase aerial photography and, after taking it into a graphics programme (Macromedia Freehand initially and, later, Adobe Illustrator), trace all the roads and other linear features. The only way to obtain all the names of roads etc, without infringing any other publisher’s copyright, was to send staff to each location where they would annotate a printout of the map line-work with all the names from street signs etc.

This was obviously an extremely time consuming task as an average map could take up to one whole day of walking around every street writing down all the names – and we had more than 400 to do. Larger maps, such as London and other major cities, obviously took a lot longer. This street checking had to be done in sun, rain or snow as we had a tight schedule of map production to keep to.

Torquay-Battersea

Two of the smaller size maps created for Thomson Local Directories – Torquay and Battersea

Most of the production work – both the street checking and the actual map production – was carried out by permanently employed PCGraphics staff members. Several times though we did have to use freelance cartographers for elements of the work and, occasionally, this did cause us problems. One incident which is still indelibly burnt into our memories is where a freelancer, as far as we could make out, simply copied an old map of the town centre we asked them to produce, along with all the errors and omissions in that old map, and passed it back to us as a new map (which was supposed to have been drawn from scratch and street checked). This caused us enormous problems at the time as we had to independently check this freelancer’s work and then redraw the map ourselves.

One other error which slipped through the net was when a Sikh Temple in Huddersfield was wrongly marked on the map as a Mosque. This, understandably, provoked an adverse reaction from the Sikh community and the map had to be quickly amended. Interestingly, this map was also produced by the same freelancer as before. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t used that freelancer ever again!

But, fortunately, mistakes with the mapping were very few and far between. Keeping the majority of the work in-house meant we were able to apply a high level of quality control to the project which was essential with that number of maps and the tight schedule.

After the initial three year period producing the maps, the contract rolled on with updates to the maps, more new maps and improvements.

The contracts with Thomson Directories ran for nearly eleven years, the last work being done in 2011, and we are extremely grateful to Mike Callaghan, Steve Arnold and all the others at TDL whom we worked with over the years and who had faith in PCGraphics back in 2000 when awarding us that first contract.

Michael Callaghan, previously of Thomson Directories, writing on Linkedin:

Whilst working for Thomson Directories a few years ago, we had a requirement to change our cartographic supplier.
Speaking to Sally and Paul at PCGraphics we were impressed.
They were professional, realistic on timescales achievable, well organised, good communicators and the quality of their work was of the highest standard.
Our requirement was for over 400 town plan maps to be generated to a tight schedule.
Sally organised the ground surveys and generation of maps and we were very pleased with the end result which incidentally, was on time.
I would not hesitate to recommend Sally and the wealth of experience she brings to her work.

 

 

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World Facts

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Some interesting World facts

First the hottest, coldest, wettest and driest places on Earth.

Hottest Place – Danakil Depression, Ethiopia, where the annual average temperature is 34.4°C. The average daily maximum temperature during the same period was 41.1 °C. However, on July 10, 1913 weather instruments measured 56.7°C in Death Valley, California, but this was a peak temperature, not an average.

Coldest Place – At the Plateau Station, Antarctica, the annual average temperature is -56.7°C. The coldest one-off temperature was -93.2 °C, recorded on 10 August, 2010 again in Antarctica.

Wettest Place – This is Assam in India, where the annual average rainfall is 11,873 mm (nearly 39 inches of rain per month).

Driest Place – The Atacama Desert, Chile, has negligible rainfall on an annual basis. There are parts of the desert which it is believed have received no rainfall whatsoever for hundreds of years. Which is, perhaps, surprising as this is a coastal area.

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The most populated countries in the World, based on the number of people per square kilometre, are possibly not what you might expect:

Monaco         16,205
Singapore       6,386
Malta               1,261
Maldives         1,164
Bahrain           1,035
Bangladesh    1,002
Vatican City       920
Barbados          648
Nauru                621
Mauritius          603

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And, by way of contrast, those with the lowest density of people per square kilometre:

Mongolia      2
Namibia       2
Australia      3
Botswana    3
Iceland         3
Suriname    3
Libya            3
Mauritania 3
Canada        3
Guyana       4

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And now, the World’s largest countries, by area:

Russia              17,075,400 sq km
Canada              9,330,970 sq km
China                 9,326,410 sq km
USA                    9,166,600 sq km
Brazil                 8,456,510 sq km
Australia           7,617,930 sq km
India                  2,973,190 sq km
Argentina         2,736,690 sq km
Kazakhstan      2,717,300 sq km

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And the smallest countries, again by area:

Vatican City                0.44 sq km
Monaco                       1.95 sq km
Nauru                        21.20 sq km
Tuvalu                        26.00 sq km
San Marino               61.00 sq km
Liechtenstein         160.00 sq km
Marshall Islands    181.00 sq km
Seychelles                270.00 sq km
Maldives                   300.00 sq km
St. Kitts and Nevis  360.00 sq km

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The oldest countries in the World, and when they were formed:

San Marino     301 AD
France              486 AD
Bulgaria           632 AD
Denmark         950 AD
Portugal        1143 AD
Andorra         1278 AD
Switzerland  1291 AD

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The most widely spoken languages:

Chinese (Mandarin) More than 1 billion
English                         512 million
Hindi                            501 million
Spanish                       399 million
Russian                       285 million
Arabic                         265 million
Bengali                       245 million
Portuguese               196 million
Malay-Indonesian   140 million
Japanese                    125 million

你好    Hello    नमस्ते    ¡Hola    Алло    مرحبا    হ্যালো    Olá   Halo    こんにちは

 

The population of the World is estimated at  7.14 billion people of which 19.1% live in China and 17.4% in India.

Did you know that the surface of our planet is 70.9% water?

sea

 

Sources/credits:  www.worldatlas.com / wikipedia.org / Google translate

 

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Island Life

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It was back in June 2010 that we moved to the Isle of Wight. Sally and I had been considering a move for some time before that – the nice little canal-side cottage where we were living in Ash Vale, Surrey was becoming too small for a growing family.

ash_vale

Businesswise, we were free to move anywhere. A few years previously we’d changed from directly employing staff to using a team of skilled freelancer cartographers which meant that we weren’t tied to a particular area or having the problem of relocating staff.

So we came up with a shortlist of possible places to live. And, because of the way we work, we felt we weren’t necessarily restricted to living in the UK. Actually, it started off as a pretty long list – we took a list of English speaking countries off Wikipedia and began crossing off places we thought unsuitable.

Australia sounded good but a bit of a long trip to see family and friends at weekends. The same for Canada and the USA. So we looked closer to home.

We had a brief discussion about Gibraltar before moving on to the Channel Islands – until we looked into the problems of buying a house over there and the prices asked for very modest properties.

But, the idea of living on an island had formed in our minds.

One of our other criteria was to move south if possible. Warmer summers and milder winters were a definite attraction, so all of the more northerly islands surrounding the UK were ruled out. Eventually, one of us (and I’m not saying who) suggested the Isle of Wight.

We went through the usual thoughts of ‘Isn’t the Isle of Wight only for grannies and retired people?’ and ‘Aren’t they about 50 years behind the times over there?’ before remembering the great beaches, the scenery, the slower way of life (we’d had holidays on the Island previously) and the slightly warmer weather.

And there was the added bonus that house prices were considerably cheaper on the Island too.

So, we moved.

We’d only been on the Island a short while before ‘island mentality’ set in. I doubt if this is in any way unique to the Isle of Wight, but living on an island does make you think in a slightly different way. Islanders, we quickly noticed, tend to stick together. Everything is very island-centered. There may be around 110,000 people on the Island but you feel you know everyone and people tend to be much friendlier than a lot of places we’ve lived on the mainland.

While everyone else, it seems, is going global, living on an island makes you think very local. From local food and drink to employment for local people.

And then there’s the quirky things. Like the fact that the trains on the Island are ex London Underground trains of around 1938 vintage. They can’t run any other trains because the bridges on the Island were built too low. And they run well too – we actually have the most punctual train service in the UK, notwithstanding the fact that there is only about 8.5 miles of railway line! There are no motorways and only one stretch of dual carriageway about half a mile long. But, apart from during the times of the music festivals, there’s rarely a queue of traffic anywhere.

underground
Island Line train (formerly a London Underground train) at St Johns Rd Station, Ryde

dinosaur_train
An Island Line train in dinosaur livery

No self respecting Island would be complete without its fair share of eccentrics. The clear leader in this field on the Isle of Wight is David Icke. A former professional footballer and sports presenter on the BBC, it all went a bit pear shaped for David around 1990 when the spirit world began, allegedly, to pass messages to him. He followed this up in March 1991 with a press conference where he announced that he was a “Son of the Godhead”. Several books followed, with one making the claim that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian. The Queen and Tony Blair are, apparently, reptiles. We have our doubts about one of those but are willing to believe it about the other.

David has his own youtube channel where you can view his videos and he does sell-out tours  – he is doing an all day presentation at Wembley Arena in October 2014. Tickets are available online.

Local newspapers are always interesting to read and the County Press is no exception. We’re always amazed at the somewhat trivial stories which manage to make the ‘news’ pages. Take these three for instance:

http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/news/man-stuck-in-window-37209.aspx

http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/news/man-freed-after-trapping-arm-43083.aspx

http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/news/man-freed-from-window-46511.aspx

Perhaps there’s something about folk from the Island and windows, but a worryingly high number seem to have problems with them. Or, maybe, they just have problems with doors and use the windows instead? Who knows? We’ll report back in a few years time when we’ll probably be using the window to get in and out of our house. And calling out the fire brigade when we get stuck.

Along with the lack of motorways, there’s also a complete lack of shopping centres on the Island. What we have are High Streets. Remember them? Their demise everywhere else in the UK has been well documented but here, on the Isle of Wight, every town has its High Street and all have more than their fair share of small, independent shops.

Yes, there’s a very large Tesco where, over time, you’ll bump into just about everyone you know on the Island but there’s also a huge number of small, local food stores and delicatessens, coffee shops, restaurants, greengrocers and fish mongers.

Hey, you know what? It does sound like England from 50 years ago!  And, you know what else? It’s actually none the worse for being like that.

 

Credits:
Island Line photos: Wikimedia Commons 
David Icke: Wikipedia

 

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The demise of royalty free mapping

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When we started PCGraphics back in 1998 one of the most common requests from clients was for ‘royalty free maps’. What people were looking for was maps which were produced from copyright free sources which they wouldn’t have to pay royalties on every time they used them.

At the time, Ordnance Survey would charge a royalty fee of around 5 pence per A3 size printed copy if the maps we produced were based on their sources. For a 10,000 print run this would add another £500 to the cost – and this would be payable every time they printed the maps, usually every 6 or 12 months.

royalty_fees

To get around this we were often commissioned to produce royalty free maps. These were initially more expensive to produce, but there were no on-going royalty or licence fees, and in the longer term they were more cost effective.

To give an idea of the scale of the demand for royalty free mapping, one client alone spent over half a million Pounds with us on royalty free maps. This was, obviously, for a large number of maps and huge print runs but it does go to show the lengths some companies were forced to go to in order to avoid paying royalties to Ordnance Survey.

Then, of course, came web maps and no-one was printing quite so many maps anymore. Things had to change and, in 2010, Ordnance Survey changed their licensing and much of their data became free to use.

Almost overnight this brought to an end the requests for royalty free mapping.

These days, nearly all our customised UK maps are produced from freely available Ordnance Survey data and we rarely, if ever, get asked to produce a map ‘royalty free’ anymore. We’d guess that the days of half a million Pound contracts to produce maps free of royalties are a thing of the past. But, as with all things, you should never say never!

You can read more about royalty free maps and Ordnance Survey on some of our other blog entries:

How do we make maps?
A few words about Ordnance Survey

 

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Coals to Newcastle?

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….. or, the day we bought a map off  ebay

 

First, let’s clear up one thing. At PCGraphics we draw maps, hundreds of them, but what we don’t do is print or publish our own maps. We’re a service company to publishers, tour operators, Local Authorities and anyone else who wants a map drawn. But we don’t print maps.

So, when we wanted a World wall map we, like most other people, went online to buy one. Fairly easy, there’s plenty of suppliers out there.

But then you start looking at the cost. A World wall map can be anything from £12 up to £25 or more. Surely they must all be the same? Why do some cost twice as much as others do?

Anyway, being cost conscious, we opted for one off  ebay for £12. Plus postage, of course.

The map arrived on time, nicely rolled up in a tube. No complaints there. We didn’t actually open up the tube and look at the map until several days later. And then the fun began.

Ok, I’ll admit it, being cartographers we’re a bit fussy about maps. But I don’t think you’d have to be all that fussy to be astounded by the map we received.

We’ve scanned and uploaded here just one small corner of the map (it’s a big map, about A1 size and we could only fit the corner in the scanner!) but we could equally have chosen any part of the map as an example.

world_map(Scan of the bottom left corner of the World map we bought)

At first glance you look at it and think, ok, yes, it’s a World map, that’s what we ordered. Then you look closer.

vatican
(Zoomed in section of map)

Now, most of us know where the Vatican City is, don’t we, even if we’re not Catholics? Even if we don’t know it’s exact location, I think pretty much all of us would know that the Vatican City is not in Corsica (France). Yet there it is, proudly sitting on the west coast of Corsica. Or according to the map we bought anyway.

Next…….

world_text_4
(Republic of Ireland extract)

There’s probably a Gaelic spelling of every town and city name in Eire, but we’re fairly sure that ‘Limerickv’ isn’t one of them. Maybe it was just a typo error which slipped through the net? But then……

world_text_5
(France/Spain extract)

This is certainly an unusual spelling of Bordeaux. Perhaps because it’s pronounced ‘o’ at the end of Bordeaux someone stuck an ‘o’ there as well, just to make sure!

world_text_2
(Sweden extract)

Quite what’s happened to the name Gavle in Sweden is beyond us. How do you get the final ‘e’ to drop down like that? And, did no-one notice?

world_text_3
(Spain/France extract, again)

Geography, and capital cities in particular, aren’t everyone’s strongest subject but, if you’re producing a map, one of the fundamentals is to get the capital cities correct. Most of us know the city of Pamplona, famous of course for the bulls running through the streets, and I think most of us would know that Pamplona is not the capital of Andorra.

world_text
(UK extract)

Not much wrong with the UK part of the map. You’d hope not anyway as the map was produced in the UK (by a company in Sheffield) and it should be fairly easy to get all the UK names right. And, yes, they probably are but………just looking at it makes me feel dizzy and a bit queasy. How many different angles can you spot that the names have been placed at? Just look at Penzance and Plymouth. And then Newcastle and Manchester. And the end of ‘United Kingdom’ seems to have gone awry too. And Dublin and Birmingham. Need I go on? I can’t really as it’s making me feel slightly nauseous looking at it (a bit like sea sickness).

And this was all from just the small corner of the map that we scanned.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Would it be that you get what you pay for with maps, the same as with most things?

Possibly. Except that we sent the map back (we’re £6 something out of pocket now because of the postage but we really didn’t want to keep the map, it was embarrassing, and people might have though we’d produced it) and went down the High Street and bought a new World map from WH Smiths. The new map, published by Ordnance Survey, cost us £9.99 (other publisher’s maps were available at the same price) whereas we’d paid £12 plus postage to a company on ebay for the poor excuse of a map.

So, our moral is, not everything is cheaper on the internet. Lesson learnt. Until next time we find a ‘bargain’ anyway.

 

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World Travel Market and other exhibitions

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The World Travel Market exhibition was on at ExCel (yes, that’s the way they spell it) in London’s Docklands from 4 – 7 November 2013. In their own words, the WTM is ‘the leading global event for the travel industry to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business’.

wtm

Over the years at PCGraphics we’ve attended and exhibited at many tourism and publishing Fairs – both the London and the much bigger Frankfurt Bookfairs, the now defunct British Travel Trade Fair (which evolved into the Best of Britain and Ireland) in Birmingham and the ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) along with the World Travel Market (WTM).

Of all these shows, WTM was always the most fun. Undoubtably hard work – a pair of comfortable shoes was always the first thing packed – it was the only exhibition which had an element of gaiety about it. At times it was almost a carnival atmosphere.

Contrast that with our annual trips to Germany for the Frankfurter Buchmesse or Frankfurt Bookfair to you and me.

We have nothing against Frankfurt per se but simply the mention of the city which prides itself on being the financial centre of Europe still causes some of us to shudder uncontrollably and to bring others out in a nervous rash.

No rational explanation can be given for these rather extreme reactions. Perhaps it was all the preplanning necessary. Packing cartons and boxes and airfreighting them to Germany weeks before the show. Printing promotional items. Booking ludicrously overpriced hotels (and having to book them almost 12 months in advance to ensure accommodation was available). Turning up at the hotel only to find you’d booked everyone in to a seedy guesthouse in the red light district. Actually finding your way around the exhibition halls – halls so vast and spread so far apart that travelling between them is done on travelators. Maybe it was all those things, maybe none. All we know is that we dreaded even the mention of the name Frankfurt.

frankfurt
(The Frankfurt Bookfair tower)

World Travel Market was slightly different. It’s probably easier to make an exhibition fun and a bit more exciting when it’s all about holidays and travel. Not so easy perhaps when the subject is books.

We did quite a number of these exhibitions over the years and one thing we learnt is that the more planning you do the more you get from the show.

At our first ever exhibition we didn’t bother making any advance appointments. We set up our exhibition stand with very little thought as to how to get people to stop and take a look. And we got very little from it.

You learn from this and, at subsequent Fairs, we would bring along our own lighting for the stand, have monitors showing presentations, have give-aways on the stand and have prize draws etc. All geared to get people to stop and have a look and for us to get their business card so we could contact them later.

The other thing we learnt was to, literally, tie everything down. Bolt it down if possible. It’s not during the exhibition that things would go missing but, usually, at the set up stage or after the Fair closed each evening. Everything from monitor cables to ladders would disappear if they weren’t attached to something heavy and immovable. Things got so bad that, at one time, we considered CCTV but in the end opted for simply leaving warning signs stating that cameras were in operation. That actually seemed to do the trick.

So, World Travel Market is coming round again the first week of November. We don’t actually exhibit anymore, unfortunately. In the great scheme of things PCGraphics is a small company compared with most of the other exhibitors (most cartographic companies are small these days) and the cost of participating at these exhibitions in London, Birmingham, Frankfurt etc became prohibitive and uneconomic some years ago.

exhibition

(One of our stands at a show. Once you’ve done a few exhibitions you realise that having a corner stand is much more desirable. The organisers know this too and charge a premium)

If you’re not in the trade (publishing or tourism) and therefore unlikely to be given tickets, World Travel Market and the Book Fairs all have public days (usually the last day or days of the exhibition) and we can recommend going along. If you’re looking for a holiday, WTM is the place to go, with just about every destination in the World represented under one roof. If you’re interested in books, the London Book Fair would be ideal. You can even buy books from some of the stands.

In 2014, WTM is on at ExCel between November 3 – 6
Frankfurt Book Fair – October 8 – 12 2014
London Book Fair  at Earls Court between 8 – 10 April 2014

If you do go along to any of these, enjoy yourself but spare a thought for those on the stands. It’s not as easy as it looks.

 

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A few words about Ordnance Survey

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A few words about Ordnance Survey – and Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown probably wouldn’t be top of many people’s lists of favourite Prime Ministers (in fact, according to many of the lists I’ve seen, he’s fairly close to the bottom) but he did do one thing during his short reign at the helm which has helped us at PCGraphics along with, indirectly, many of our UK clients.

Ok, it’s not earth shattering in the great scheme of World affairs, and it did nothing to further his career as the man who, almost single handedly, ‘saved the world.’ But in March 2010 he announced plans to free up much of the data held by Ordnance Survey (and paid for over the years by UK tax payers).

GordonBrown
(The man who saved the World – Public Domain photograph)

This meant that, from 1 April 2010, large tracts of O.S. data would be free to use by commercial companies such as ourselves. The idea was to give a push to growth in the digital economy.

Now, you would have thought that this was something which would have received universal acclaim throughout the cartographic world. Detailed data of the UK which we’d had to licence from O.S. on behalf of our clients which, quite often, doubled the price of a job. What’s not to like about getting that for free? Unfortunately not everyone thought so. There were a few cartographic companies in the UK who voiced their disapproval of Ordnance Survey data becoming free to use, mainly it seemed because these were companies which had built a business model based around charging clients on behalf of the O.S. to use the data.

But, enough of the doomsayers. As of April 2010 we could use O.S. data without a licence or royalties. All we needed to do was add a simple credit line at the bottom of the map, like the one at the bottom of this page.

Ok, some of the file formats that Ordnance Survey make their data available in are not suitable for home users (ESRI SHAPE files anyone? Or how about MapInfo Tab data? Or even DXF?) but for cartographic companies such as PCGraphics it opened up a whole new, much more cost effective, market.

rydeOS
(Four levels of Ordnance Survey data, now free to use commercially)

Prior to April 2010, to get around the payment of licence fees and royalties, we would produce royalty (copyright) free mapping. This entailed acquiring aerial photography and sending cartographers out to the towns or areas to be mapped to gather all the street names etc. Remember, Google Street View of the UK was only went ‘live’ in 2009 so before then, to be copyright free, we had to physically visit every location.

So, thanks to our friend Gordon Brown (did I actually write that?), we now had a way of producing Ordnance Survey based mapping of the UK without much of the cost and red tape that we had to endure previously.

Perhaps surprisingly though, now we have Google Street View to check it against, we’ve found Ordnance Survey are perhaps not quite as accurate with their mapping as they would have us believe. Over the last few years we’ve noticed many incorrect street names and other inaccuracies with what O.S. have produced.

It’s funny because, as a cartographer, I remember being told that Ordnance Survey always used to add ‘fingerprints’ (or deliberate mistakes to you and me) to their maps to help catch those who were copying them. Now, maybe they added so many of these ‘fingerprints’ to their maps over the years that they’ve lost track of where they all are or, possibly more likely, there were quite a few unintentional errors in what they were producing? Whichever is right, it’s certainly true that Ordnance Survey maps are perhaps not quite as accurate as we were led to believe.

But hey, maybe we shouldn’t complain about Ordnance Survey maps because things could be a lot worse. A lot, lot worse actually. Imagine if Apple were in charge of UK mapping? Imagine whole towns and cities being left off the map of the UK? No, perhaps we’ll stick with the occasional error in the Ordnance Survey’s work, especially since our great friend Gordon Brown signed the papers which made large chunks of it free to use.

Three cheers for the man who ‘saved the World.’ Hip hip…….ok, let’s not go too mad.

 

(Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2013)

 

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Company Director profile – Paul Cooney

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Just so you know a little bit more about who you’re dealing with at PCGraphics, this is the first of two quick blog entries to give you the low-down on the Directors who run the company. In other words, it’s all about Paul Cooney.
 
We’ll skip discretely over the early history, except to say that Paul was educated (using the term very loosely) at Gunnersbury Grammar in London W4. From this educational highpoint he joined the Mapping and Charting Establishment (MCE) in Feltham, Middlesex, to train as a cartographer. This was way back in 1972. At that time, it seemed, jobs were plenty and MCE took on around 50 trainees every year, with training taking a full year. This was an apprenticeship in manual cartography with computerised mapping  still some way off on the horizon.Looking back at the photo, below, of the trainees and instructors from that year, a couple of points stand out. Firstly, that the photo was in black and white.
Obviously there was colour photography (it’s not that long ago, honest) but perhaps the photographer thought it was a serious subject so black and white was more appropriate? Or, maybe, as it was part of the Civil Service, the cost of colour film was deemed too high?
 
The second observation, on looking at the photo now, is how much hair there was – and I’m talking about the men here. On a personal level, this was a reaction against the years at school where hair wasn’t allowed to reach your collar.
 
MCE(MCE 1972 Training Section)Life at MCE muddled on for several years, as it does in the Civil Service, until it was time to get out and join a commercial company in the real world.First stop was Engineering Surveys Reproduction. Not the catchiest of business names so they were generally just called ESR.ESR was part of a larger group who mainly performed ground surveys (theodolites and all that stuff). This was the first of two stints with ESR, this initial one lasting somewhat less than a year as it turned out to be extremely cliquey and not very pleasant at that time.paul(somewhat more hair in those days compared with today)

Next stop was Clyde Surveys in Maidenhead. Another company who mainly undertook surveying but tacked a drawing office onto the side.

From there we move to Henley on Thames and GEO Projects. This used to be owned and run by David Fryer until they were taken over by a Lebanese businessman and changed into GEO Projects. The majority of the work was based around creating school books and atlases for the Arab market. Nearly all the work therefore was in Arabic, which did give the opportunity of learning the basics (and I do mean the basics) of the language. Alif, ba, ta, tha etc still stay with me today, locked forever in my memory.

Moving on to 1986 and a switch back to ESR in Byfleet again, this time with the more senior job title of Drawing Office Supervisor. Five years in that role until a promotion to Drawing Office manager came along, followed in three years time by a further promotion to Production Manager.

One of the biggest changes during this period was the switch to computer mapping which left many of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt looking for new employment. This was a turbulent time for ESR, with, at one stage, the owners forcing an almost midnight flit to new offices across the road and the survey division biting the dust. You take what you can get out of these situations and it taught some of us how not to run a company.

It was time to leave before everything fell apart and, judging from the condition of the offices we were moved to, this could be taken very literally.

On to Lovell Johns, a competitor of ESR and the role, again, of Production Manager. This seemed like the ideal move. At the same time that ESR was imploding, Lovell Johns was expanding with offices in Oxfordshire and North Wales. As is often the way, when you’re looking forward to something so much, it very often doesn’t live up to expectations. Unfortunately this was the way at Lovell Johns. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right, you don’t get the right vibes, and it’s better not to let it drag on.

After several months of Business Plans, forecasts, meetings with Bank Managers etc, PCGraphics was set up at the beginning of October 1998. Initially there were three directors – Paul Cooney, Sally Cooney (née Hill) and Darryll Slater. Darryll was employed as Sales Director and quite soon fell by the wayside, leaving the two directors we have today.

Sally deals with the production side of things and still gets her hands dirty, figuratively speaking, drawing maps whilst Paul does the sales and marketing, accounts etc.

24d000e

 (latter day version – more barbershop friendly)

You can talk to either of us about maps, though Sally tends to deal with the existing clients and knows more about the nitty gritty of map production.

PCGraphics have been based in the Isle of Wight since 2010 and we now use a small team of freelancers as this gives us flexibility and keeps costs down, both of which are important to us and our clients.

 

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How do we make maps?

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It’s a common enough question – ‘How do we make maps?’

Having been trained as cartographers, it’s second nature to us but to others it can seem a daunting task. Yes, anyone can sketch out a rough map on a scrap of paper but, if you want something a little better and a little more accurate, it gets slightly more complicated.

Take a few minutes out of your day while we show you how we produce maps at PCGraphics.

First, a glimpse into the not so distant past when all maps we created ‘manually’. This meant working over a light box (like a glass topped table with lights underneath) where every line was drawn or ‘scribed’ using pen-like instruments with chiseled sapphire points (yes, it sounds like something that would be used in the stone-age but this was only a couple of decades ago). Text, or ‘type’, was placed onto a map manually using a photographic method of typing the words (street names etc) onto very thin film which was then coated on the reverse with a layer of wax and applied to the map sheet. All the elements of the maps were combined together, in negative form, in a reprographics studio. Eventually, four ‘final films’ of the map were created and these were used to make a proof or to print from.

Obviously, this was extremely laborious and costly and, if you made a mistake, it could mean hours or even days wasted. So, when computers, and especially the Apple Mac, arrived it didn’t take long for cartographers to switch to computer created maps.

End of, albeit a rather brief, history lesson.

So, today, cartography tends to be split between GIS (Geographic Information System) maps and maps which are simply graphics. GIS maps have a lot more intelligent data behind them in the form of databases whereas graphical maps are simply that, graphics.

At PCGraphics we specialise in graphical maps (our name gives a clue to that!) and our maps are usually created in a vector drawing programme called Illustrator. Vector simply means that the drawing is made up of points, any of which can be adjusted, moved, deleted etc. Vector artwork is scalable and can be enlarged without becoming pixillated.

The map portion below shows the blue keylines and points which are used to create a vector map. These are what the map is made up of and don’t print in the final version.

illustrator

Ok, we want to draw a map and we’ve spent over £500 on a licence for the Illustrator programme sitting on our shiny new Mac or PC. What now?

The first decision is what to base the map on. There are several choices for this. Taking the example above, a map of Oxford in the UK, we would need to use one or more of the following

  • aerial photography
  • out of copyright mapping or other copyright free information
  • Ordnance Survey data

Prior to April 2010, we would probably have used aerial photography as the basis for creating the map. We would have imported the photography into Illustrator and traced all the roads and other linework from the photographs. Obviously aerial photos don’t come with the names of towns or roads attached, so the next stage would be to send some hapless cartographer out into the wilds of the City of Oxford armed with a pen, paper and clipboard to note down the name of every road or other feature appearing on the map. Nice on a warm, sunny day but pretty miserable when it rained or snowed. At the end of this we would have had what is termed a ‘royalty free’ map. This meant that everything on the map was generated by ourselves and nothing was taken from a copyright source.

This all changed in April 2010 however when large chunks of Ordnance Survey data were opened up for commercial use. Whereas, previously, the O.S. would have charged an arm and a leg, and sometimes more, in royalty payments for using the data we in the UK had already paid for in our taxes, it was now all available free.

So, today, a map of Oxford would probably be based on Ordnance Survey data with no royalties or licence fees to pay. The production costs are likely to be less too than the royalty free method outlined earlier. Oh, and there’s less chance of cartographers getting sunburnt or caught in a rainstorm too! A win/win situation.

This still leaves the drawing in Illustrator to do. Illustrator is one of those programmes which have a steep learning curve. Quite honestly, if there was a viable alternative we’d be using it. There used to be an alternative called Freehand, which was much more intuitive to use, but Adobe, who make Illustrator, bought Freehand and swiftly dumped it.

Don’t get me wrong, you can make great maps in Illustrator, it’s just that Freehand was so much easier to use. But hey, who needs an easy life anyway?

Illustrator, as do most vector software, lets you work in layers. A map of Oxford for instance can have 100+ layers, any of which can be turned on or off and the data on that layer manipulated.

layers

(Above – Just a few of the layers on a typical map created in Illustrator)

A paper proof can either be printed straight from the Illustrator file or, more commonly these days, the file is exported to a JPEG or PDF and sent by email for the client to approve. Once this is done, and any changes made, we’re ready to send the final file to the client or printer.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Ok, so there’s a few more twists and turns along the way, as there is with most things, but that’s the basics of it.

Cartography, it has to be said, is far easier these days than it used to be even in the early 1990s. It’s much more efficient and a lot, lot cheaper than the old manual methods. It’s still an enjoyable career and one we only (very) occasionally regret entering.

 

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