Nottingham Trams – Phase 2

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Phase 2 of the Nottingham Trams network – the extension of the tram lines to Chilwell and Clifton – is due to be completed in summer 2015. PCGraphics are proud to have been awarded the contract for producing the mapping for this project.

Several years ago we created the mapping for the original routes (you can see some samples on our website here) and we were very pleased when Tramlink Nottingham asked us to produce the new maps.

Each of the maps show an area covering 5 minutes walking time from every tram stop. In total we’ve created 50 maps – 27 new maps this time plus revisions to the original 23 maps.

All 50 maps are based on Ordnance Survey data and were created in the graphics programme Illustrator.

Despite a tight schedule, all the maps were supplied on time and within budget, something which we pride ourselves upon.

Many of the existing 23 tram stop maps can be seen on our Pinterest Board here.

Below, we’re pleased to preview 4 of the new maps produced for Tramlink Nottingham. Click on any of the images to view a larger version.

New Style template 2015   New Style template 2015

New Style template 2015   New Style template 2015

 

Visit the Nottingham Trams website for more information concerning the tramlines.

Details about the construction of Phase 2 of the tram service can be found here.

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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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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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