Location Maps – why do we need them?

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We’ve been in business since 1998 and, almost since Day 1, we’ve been producing location maps for businesses on a regular basis. The question though is why do businesses, and people in general, need location maps when it seems like just about everyone has a smart phone with access to Google Maps or similar apps?

Well, there’s obviously a need for them. We don’t produce location maps for fun, we produce them because people approach us and ask us (oh, and pay us to produce the map too, that’s important!).

I suppose a better question might be, why doesn’t Google Maps, or whoever, fulfil this requirement?

Perhaps it’s because it’s seen as a lazy way of interacting with a client who wants to visit your business location, office etc. Here’s our address, now go and look it up for yourself on the internet to find out how to get to us.

Also, if you are trying to contact potential clients through a print medium – a retail store advertising in a newspaper, for instance – you have to use a location map.

So, location maps do work and people need them, which probably explains why we’re still producing these types of maps even though Google has mapped (almost) the whole World.

The next question, having decided that it would be best if potential clients knew where to find your business, is ‘What kind of location map do I want?’

Well, there’s as many different styles of location map as there are businesses. Well, ok, not quite, but you get the general idea. You can have whatever size and style and colours you like. Everything from a map of the whole country showing your multiple locations…

Priory_Hospitals

To a map closely centred on your location, such as this one we produced for the St John’s Ambulance a few years ago…

Basic CMYK

You can also have direction to your offices, which helps if your location is a bit more difficult to find or where there is particular car parking areas to use, or one-way streets etc to navigate. All these can be shown on the map or on a panel next to it.

Shoreham_Port

Or, do you fancy more of a street map, showing the surrounding area, streets etc? This particular sample was for the Wrenwood Hotel in Boscombe, near Bournemouth. Invaluable for guests travelling to the hotel.

Wrenwood_LOCATION

And here’s another example. This one was produced for Audley Travel – one of our tour operator clients, situated at the end of the very picturesque New Mill Lane, just outside Witney in Oxfordshire. Audley use the location maps on their website.

audley_location

Walsh & Co, a firm of solicitors based in Cornwall, asked us to produce this map to highlight their location. Again, it’s also on their website.

Walsh&CoMap

Closer to home – closer to our home, anyway – this black and white location map was created recently for the Trouville Hotel in Sandown, on the Isle of Wight…

Trouville Sandown

And even mapping companies need location maps too. This was ours when we had offices in Old Woking, Surrey…

PCG_WOKING_LOCATION

And, remember, it doesn’t have to be for a business. We get requests for location maps for weddings, village and town hall events, museums and galleries and just about everything else you can think of. If people need to find you, then you probably need a location map.

If you like any of our sample maps here and think you’d like something similar for your own business, then do contact us. We’re more than happy to give you free advice and a quote for your map. All we need to know is a rough idea of what style of map you want, any logos etc to be included and whether you want directions to your location. Oh, and the address would be handy too!

There’s more info about location maps on our website, or drop us an email info@pcgraphics.uk.com

 

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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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Google Maps

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When Google Maps first made an appearance back around 2005 – 2006, one of the questions people nearly always asked us at PCGraphics was ‘has it affected your business?’

The general thought was that having a major player like Google enter the mapping market would badly affect the number of clients wanting maps from us.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s had the complete opposite effect. Whereas previously maps were seen as staid and, perhaps, even slightly boring, the prominence that Google brought to the mapping market changed that perception almost overnight. Now it was cool to have maps on your website and everyone wanted them.

Obviously people found it really easy to drop a Google Map into the code for their website but, and this is where the market really took off for us, many then found that the map, while functional, didn’t blend in too well with the website design. The other thing was that, well, everyone’s maps looked the same.

At PCGraphics we’d always created custom designed maps and, now that it was almost obligatory to have a map on your website or brochure, we were feeling the effects of having a major company like Google create a huge surge of interest.

When we talk to strangers about what we do and we tell them we’re map makers (we tend not to say cartographers as it has a habit of confusing people!) their usual reply these days is ‘Oh, like Google Maps?’. Now, even though we’ve been around a lot longer than Google Maps, we don’t take offence. We use Google maps just like everyone else. It’s horses for courses. If you want to look up a location quickly on your iPad, iPhone or whatever then head for Google. If you want something a bit more customised and, dare I say it, aesthetically pleasing, then you know where to find us!

So, thank you Google, and keep up the good work.

 

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When maps go bad

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We all make mistakes and cartographers are no different to anyone else. And yes, even here at PCGraphics we’ve made the occasional mistake on a map or two over the years. But Apple’s map app has been truly a disaster from the word go.

After Apple’s well publicised dropping of Google Maps in 2012, we all thought that Apple’s new map app would be the best thing since, well, since Google Maps.

It wasn’t. It was a disaster.

And that wasn’t just the opinion of cartographers, it was what ordinary users were saying. Which was all very surprising really, because Apple is well known for putting a lot of thought into the design of it’s computers and software. Apple products normally ‘just work’.

Sadly, the content of the maps was fundamentally flawed. Town names were wrongly positioned, sometimes many miles from their correct location. Sometimes a large town name was completely missing, yet a small village just down the road would be named. It was all quite bizarre and random.

In the screenshot below you can see the small village of Fishbourne named, quite correctly. This is one of the ferry terminals on the Isle of Wight. Along the coast from Fishbourne is Ryde, which is actually the largest town on the Island. Is Ryde named? No, and neither are many of the other towns.

ryde

So, move on a year to 2013 and with iOS7 coming out and being all shiny and new (if a little washed out looking) you’d have thought they would have sorted out the problem of their maps. Apparently not.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24246646

It would appear that, in Alaska, the route finder in the app will take you along airport taxiways and across a runway. Probably not a good driving experience for the more nervous drivers amongst us.

It does beg a couple of questions though (leaving aside why Apple still hasn’t got the Map app right). Firstly, what on earth is a road doing going across a runway anyway? And, secondly, you do have to wonder about the mentality of drivers who follow their satnavs so slavishly that they will drive onto an airfield despite all the warning signs.

Maybe this is a one-off mistake but somehow I don’t think it will be.

And, no, before anyone asks, PCGraphics weren’t involved in supplying maps to Apple! And we couldn’t possibly say who was either…

 

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