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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Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Glasgow

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This is the third in our series of glimpses into the Red Guide Books produced by Ward-Lock. This particular title, Glasgow, was published around 1939-40. The books don’t tend to be dated anywhere obvious i.e. not on the cover or the publisher’s credits page as might be usual. Sometimes they require a little bit of searching to find the publication date and, in this edition, it can be found at the foot of one of the pages of adverts. Occasionally the maps within the Guide Book are dated and this can also give a clue as to the date of publication.

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(Above, Ward-Lock Glasgow front cover)

(Below, Ward-Lock Glasgow introduction page)

glasgow-introduction

(Click on any of the images to enlarge)

The Introduction to Glasgow page (above) is quite interesting. In the first line we’re told that the population, in 1939, is ‘well over a million’. I think most of us would expect that figure to have increased, perhaps substantially, over the last 75 years but the official figure is now around 625,000. Some of this can be put down to boundary changes but Wikipedia also gives the following explanation:

Glasgow’s population peaked in 1931 at 1,088,000, and for over 40 years remained over 1 million. However, in the 1960s the population started to decline, partly due to relocation to the “new towns” in clearings of the poverty-stricken inner city areas like the Gorbals.

For those who don’t know Glasgow, the Gorbals was a notorious slum area on the south side of the River Clyde with a high population density, many living in tenement buildings. The Gorbals was often referred to as the most dangerous place in the UK in the 1930s.

glasgow-map

 

Mapping in the Glasgow Guide Book, as in previous books, was provided by John Bartholomew and Son, the Edinburgh based cartographic company. The name of Bartholomew is still around in the mapping world today, albeit only as part of Harper Collins – the name Collins Bartholomew is given to Harper Collins cartographic datasets. The map extract, above, shows an area around Kelvingrove in Glasgow.

Adverts from these Guide Books are always entertaining and the one below is no different. Take a look at the Salvation Army advert on the right hand page, below. Who could resist the plea to send a gift to ‘Slum mothers and Children’ so that they may go on a ‘Slum Holiday’?

glasgow-advert2

The advert for the National Provincial Bank (later to become the National Westminster and then NatWest), below right, attempts to paint the bank in a somewhat different light to how we perhaps perceive banks today.

“Not the least of the attractions of the city of London, are the half-hidden by-ways and alleys, so rich in historic association. The ancient rights of way, thus jealously guarded against the encroachments of the master-builder, are a permanent witness to the great traditions of the city. Amongst the institutions proud to share in such a heritage is the National Provincial Bank.”

glasgow-advert1

 

All the Ward-Lock Red Guides used photographs as well as maps to illustrate the publication. The photos were black & white and usually of well known landmarks or scenic views. The picture below shows George Square in Glasgow from the 1939 Guide.

 

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So far we’ve covered Harrogate, Bath and now Glasgow with our look back at the Ward-Lock Guide Books. More of these come in the future.

 

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Premiership Football

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Premiership football is hugely popular, not just in the UK but all around the World, so we were extremely pleased a few years ago to be asked to produce the maps for a Premiership Handbook which was being published.

Our part was to create maps showing the location of every Premiership football club in the UK plus plans of each stadium showing the stand names, away supporter sections etc.

The Handbooks were produced a couple of weeks prior to the start of the Premiership season in August and we worked in conjunction with Pica Design who were running the project.

A spin off from this was a giveaway in the Sun, a national UK newspaper, called the Premiership Fans Guide, which ran to a similar format as the Handbook.

These guides were published for several years with new maps and stadium plans being created for each football club promoted to the Premiership.

As with nearly all our work, the maps were created copyright and royalty free – meaning that no copyrighted sources had been used to make the maps thus keeping the publisher’s costs down. This was especially important in this instance because of the large print runs involved.

 

Man_utd_stadium     Chelsea_Stadium

Stadium plans of Manchester United (left) and Chelsea.

Liverpool     Everton

Location maps for Liverpool (left) and Everton.

Because of the royalty free aspect of the map production, each football ground had to be visited to collect the names of streets etc surrounding the grounds. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any football matches whilst doing the field checking!

Along with the maps and stadium plans we also created mileage chart diagrams and written directions to each ground.

Apart from the Fans Guide, Pica Design work on several other football related publications and more information can be found on their website.

Of course, not all of us support teams in the Premier League. To find the team that some of us follow you’d have to look a lot further down the Football League, somewhere around 90th place at the moment unfortunately. Can you guess who?

 

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London in maps around 1908

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This is part of an ongoing series on our blog looking back at old maps in our library. We have hundreds of old maps which we’ve collected over the years and which have helped us compile today’s new custom designed, copyright free maps.

Bacon’s Large-Print Map of London and the Suburbs was published around 1908. The map isn’t dated (some publishers still don’t put publication dates on their maps as people don’t want to buy ‘last year’s’ map) but, looking at some of the detail on the map, it’s possible to come up with a pretty good idea of the date.

london-title

In 1908, London hosted a Franco-British Exhibition which attracted 8 million visitors and celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France. The Franco-British Exhibition was held near Shepherd’s Bush in West London, an area now called White City. Looking at the old map below you can see the exhibition site is marked, from which the map can be dated.

Below this we show the same area as it is today and it’s interesting to see how the area to the west of London has built up over the past 106 years.

london1

london1-new

(New map: Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2014)

The publisher of the map, George Bacon, was actually originally from New York State but moved to Britain in 1861 after which he set up numerous companies – everything from sewing machines to maps. Most of these ventures failed but the cartographic publishing company continued until it was later taken over by another firm. George Bacon operated from 127 Strand, in London.

This particular map of London was drawn at a scale of 2.5 inches to the mile. The two images below show the area to the north of the River Thames, very much as it still is today.

london2 london3

The extract below is of south west London, from Barnes out to Brentford. At the time of this map, Brentford was a separate town, not part of the urban sprawl of London.

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Next, are the Chelsea, Battersea and Wandsworth areas of London. If you know this area you’ll realise that, apart from a couple of new main roads, you could navigate pretty well by this 106 year old map today.

london5

The same can be said of the extract below, from Victoria in the north to Clapham Common in the south. The road layout is still almost the same today as it was in 1908.

london6

london7

Docklands in the east end of London has obviously changed dramatically, but go south of the river to Greenwich and beyond and things aren’t quite so different as they were a century ago. Which does all go to show why these old maps have been so useful to us in the past as the basis for our royalty free maps. In many areas, about 90% of the road network hasn’t changed at all which means, when you’re producing a new map which is copyright or royalty free, you only have to find and identify 10% of the roads which obviously saves a lot of time and money.

Apart from this George Bacon map of London, we have literally hundreds of other old maps which are out of copyright. The copyright on an Ordnance Survey map, and many other maps too, lasts for 50 years after which you are free to use them as sources etc without paying O.S. for the privilege. John Bartholomew and Son maps are slightly different, only because they attempted to change the copyright of their maps to 75 years about 10 years ago.

Previously in this series covering old maps we’ve looked at Ward Lock Red Guide Books to Bath  and Harrogate. More to come in the future.

 

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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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Walk Maps

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Writing in our blog recently about  Walk the Wight, part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival, it gave us the idea of looking back and seeing the variety of walk maps we’ve produced at PCGraphics over the years.

Walk Maps are always popular and we’ve done a number of these, some for publishers others for Local Authorities.

The map below was actually produced for the Isle of Wight Walking Festival a few years ago and is the index page to all the main walk routes on the Island.

Route_Index

One of the earliest walk maps we produced was for Shetland Island Tourism. This was a series of walks around Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands. The maps were produced royalty and copyright free, meaning we had to visit the Island and walk every street to ensure we didn’t infringe copyright. Shetland is more than 100 miles (160 km) off the north coast of mainland Scotland and, as we were based in Surrey at the time, quite a trip for our cartographers.

Lerwick_Walk_Map

We’ve produced a quite a few maps for The History Press (Pitkin Publishing) and the example below is one of a number of London Walk maps we created for them. With busy areas such as this it’s best to keep the detail to a minimum (i.e. not showing all the roads) otherwise the route can easily become lost amongst all the other detail. Major landmarks and main roads are all that is usually required.

Walk B

Pica Design commissioned these maps of Kingston and Chessington in Surrey from us back in 2009 as part of a series of six maps. Other maps included Richmond Park and a Thames Walk map.

Basic CMYK  Basic CMYK

For Thomas Cook Publishing we produced literally hundreds of maps to go in their guide books (City Spots, Hot Spots and Drive Around guides). The example below is of a walk route around Taormina in Sicily.

Taormina

For Isle of Wight Tourism we produced a complete booklet of walks around the Island including text, photographs and graphics. As with most walk maps, these were custom designed and produced royalty or copyright free, meaning that we had to walk all these footpaths ourselves. The maps folded down to a pocket sized DL booklet and are still offered as digital downloads from the Visit Isle of Wight website.

yarmouth-brighstone

 

A different style of walk map now, this time what we call a pictorial map. This particular map is of a walk route in Usk, south east Wales, and was one of a number of maps created for Monmouth County Council.

USK

 

Over the past few months we’ve been producing a range of walk maps for Assura for display in the reception areas of Health Centres, Doctor’s Surgeries etc to encourage patients to take more exercise. These are short walks around the local area and are printed at A1 size and encapsulated in acrylic for display in the reception areas. Each map has two walks and also includes a QR Code so that people can download the walk onto their mobile devices.

Basic CMYK  A4 Assura Template

 

The walk maps for Assura are based on Ordnance Survey data, meaning that we don’t have to go out and actually walk around each route – which is a bit of a shame sometimes as some of the walks are quite pleasant and we were getting just a little bit fitter.

Which just about brings us up to date with walk maps as we currently have a new map in production for Assura.

 

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Mapping your holiday

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If you’ve booked a holiday or trip abroad through a Travel Agent or Tour Operator in the last 16 years or so, the chances are that you’ll have seen or used one of our maps.

PCGraphics have produced a huge number of maps for the travel industry, very probably more than any other cartographic company in the UK during that time. From small locator maps for holiday brochures and websites to large format printed maps of tourist destinations for sale in shops, online and on cruise ships etc, we’ve been asked to produce all manner and sizes of maps.

ATG 09 design template  CPM2 Template landscape.ai

(Left, Audley Travel Thailand and right, Vintage Travel Rhodes)

We’ve created maps of holiday locations on every continent. Maps of everywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from North and South America to Asia, along with most places in between.

So, if you’ve been on holiday with many of the big names in the Travel Industry such as TUI (including Thomson Holidays, Airtours, Quark Expeditions, First Choice etc), British Airways Holidays, Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook and many others, to smaller Tour Operators such as Vintage Travel, Audley, Ultimate Travel, New Experience Holidays, Helpful Holidays and loads, loads more, you will have probably seen our maps at some stage of the booking procedure.

peru

(Produced for The Peru Experience)

To give you an idea of some of the numbers of maps involved, for British Airways Holidays alone we have produced around 120 maps of holiday destinations around the World and for TUI the total is well over 160.

In our Job Records, which keeps track of each and every job we do, there are 459 unique records for Tour Operators and some of those individual jobs can have more than a hundred maps in each project. Which, by any standard, is a whole lot of tourist maps.

Maps for the Travel Industry come in a variety of sizes and designs, They can be small locator maps, perhaps showing where a particular town or village is within a country or region, or they can be highly detailed maps for tourists to find their way around a foreign city. Over the last couple of years we’ve had a lot more requests for customised maps of areas of Africa showing Nature Reserves, Safari Lodges etc and so, based on that, we’d guess that tourism to the wilder parts of Africa is probably becoming increasingly popular. One thing about all our maps though is that they are all custom designed maps, individual to each client.

Botswana   ATG 09 design template   Rwanda-Uganda

(Produced for Wilderness Dawning Safaris, The Responsible Safari Company and The Africa Travel Centre)

Many of our clients come back to us again and again for new maps or updates to existing maps and we’ve worked with some Tour Operators for well over 12 years.

We really enjoy working with Tour Operators and the Travel Industry in general. Producing maps of tourist destinations is always fun and interesting and, even if we can’t actually get to a lot of the exotic places around the World ourselves, the next best thing can be to draw maps of them.

 

Just a very few of our valued client from over the years. Some well known names in here:

Acorn Ski Ltd,   Affinity Villas,   Africa & Asia venture,   Africa Travel Centre,   American Holidays,   Audley Travel,   Bailey Robinson,   Bonnes Vacances,   British Airways Holidays,   Citysightseeing,   Consort Travel,   Croatian Villas,   First Choice Holidays,   French Golf Holidays,   Helpful Holidays,   Hotel Connect,   Kerala Connections,   Kirker Holidays,   New Experience Holidays,   Quark Expeditions,   Scandinavian Airline,   Shearings Holidays,   Ski Class,   STA Travel,   Sunways,   Swan Hellenic,   The Responsible Safari Company,   Tony Backhurst Scuba Travel,   TUI UK,   Vintage Travel,   Virgin Holidays,   Voyagers Zambia,   Worldwide Holidays Direct………… and many more!

 

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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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Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Bath

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This is the second in an occasional series highlighting the Ward-Lock Red Guide Books, which we used at PCGraphics until a few years ago as copyright free bases for UK map information. The books have a wealth of information and give an interesting insight into life getting on for 70 years ago in the UK.

Published in 1950, this particular Guide covers Bath, Cheddar, Wells, Glastonbury and the surrounding towns.

bath_cover

bath_map  map_os

(Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2014)

The main map of Bath in the Guide (above, left) was a reprint of a John Bartholomew & Son map of the city. Above, right is approximately the same area today, taken from Ordnance Survey digital sources. You can see that the basic layout of the roads (plus the road names etc) are pretty much the same as they were 70 years ago, which is why these old maps have been an invaluable source for us to produce out of copyright maps from. We’ve illustrated this below by merging the 1950s map with the up to date Ordnance Survey map.

map_os_merge

Similar to the Harrogate Guide Book which we covered previously, this Bath Guide also contains some, in comparison to today’s Guide Books, unusual advertisements. Take the one below, for instance. How many times do you see an advert for a light bulb in a Thomas Cook, Lonely Planet or Rough Guides tourist book? Pretty much never I’d guess. Well, 70 years ago, apparently this was pretty normal as Osram, the light bulb manufacturer, used to take a high profile advert on the back page in many of the Red Guides. Obviously, when you are away on holiday, one of the things you always needed to think about was light bulbs.

bath_ad1

And then there’s the radioactive hot springs after which Bath was named. The level of radioactivity is, very probably, harmless but back in 1950 it was thought to be a positive selling point for the springs and had it’s own section in the Guide Book. It did give me cause however to look up the radioactive element radium on Wikipedia and it states:

Radium was once an additive in products such as toothpaste, hair creams, and even food items due to its supposed curative powers. Such products soon fell out of vogue and were prohibited by authorities in many countries after it was discovered they could have serious adverse health effects.

The French physicist Antoine Becquerel carried a small ampoule of radium in his waistcoat pocket for 6 hours and reported that his skin became ulcerated. Marie Curie experimented with a tiny sample that she kept in contact with her skin for 10 hours, and noted that an ulcer appeared several days later. Handling of radium has been blamed for Curie’s death due to aplastic anaemia.

Perhaps we’ll give the radioactive hot springs a miss next time we’re in Bath. Just in case.

bath_water

 

But, luckily, if the radium in the springs does, unfortunately, have an effect on you, you’ll be pleased to find that there are at least six adverts for Insurance companies in the Bath Red Guide. Mind you, by that time it might be too late to be calling an insurance company.

 

bath-insurance

 

Below is an extract from the road map included in the Guide, again produced by John Bartholomew & Son and used under licence. Not as user friendly as road maps produced these days, being only in black and white with a blue tint in areas of water. But then, motoring was probably a lot different too in 1950.

bath-road-map

 

We’ll be continuing this series in the future with other Ward-Lock Red Guide Books from our library.

If you are interested in old maps of the UK, you may like to know that we are gradually selling off our collection of Ordnance Survey One Inch maps. We have collected almost a complete set of these over the years, all of them over 50 years old, and are selling these individually on eBay as time permits. The maps are in varying condition depending on how much usage they have had over the years. Most of these historic maps sell for around £10 – £15. If you would like to enquire about a particular map or to purchase one, please contact us.

 

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Ocean Explorer Maps

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Ocean Explorer Maps – 14 years of maps

We get on extremely well with all of our clients – we enjoy creating their maps for them and hopefully that comes across in what we produce – but just occasionally a client comes along who we like to think of as a friend.

When Nigel Sitwell approached us back in 2000 with the idea of a map of Antarctica aimed primarily at cruise ship passengers, we were pleased to take on the job. It seemed like a nice job to work on, combining maps with informative text and interesting photos. Little did we realise how that one project would evolve into a whole series of maps spanning nearly 14 years.

We also knew nothing at the time of the background of Nigel. It’s only over those 14 years that we came to realise that he had been the editor of Wildlife magazine (which became BBC Wildlife) for many years and that he was an Expedition Leader on Antarctic cruises for 14 seasons. Or that he had been awarded the Order of the Golden Ark by HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands for services to conservation. Or that he was Chairman of the Galapagos Conservation Trust from 1997 – 2006. Or that he was the author and editor of many books specialising in natural history. But, best of all, that he’d flown a military plane between the Needles at the western tip of the Isle of Wight!

So, Antarctic Explorer went into work and had it’s first printing in 2000 and a reprint followed shortly afterwards in 2001. This popular map is still in print today, along with a German version in 2001 and a Japanese version in 2002 which was our first venture into working with the Japanese language.

antarctic antarctic_german antarctic_japanese

Antarctica set the style for all the other Explorer maps to follow. One side has an overview of the whole of the continent surrounded by short biographies of important figures (explorers etc). Side two shows an enlargement of the Antarctic Peninsula along with photos of the wildlife, information on Treaties etc.

antarctic_map  Antarctic_peninsula

Spitsbergen was the second in the Explorer series and went into work in 2001. It was reprinted again in 2010. In the latter part of 2001 we created a popular German version of the map which has had two subsequent reprints.

Producing Spitsbergen Explorer brought back memories for our Production Director Sally, who, in 1994 had spent four weeks on this Arctic island on a glacial research expedition. Read the blog entry here.

spitzbergen  spitzbergen_german

spitsbergen

After the success of Antarctica and Spitsbergen, Nigel commissioned us to produce Alaska Explorer in 2002. Again aimed primarily at cruise ship passengers, Alaska followed a similar format to Antarctica with an overview map on one side and an enlargement on the reverse with more photos and information.

alaska

Alaska_Map_Side  Alaska_Cover_Side

Also in that year we started work on a new title in the series, South American Explorer. This focused mainly on southern Chile and, in particular, the fjords which are very popular with cruise ships.

south_american  CHILE_INSET_MAP

2002 was another busy year as we also created Falkland Islands Explorer and South Georgia Explorer. These were slightly smaller format maps than Antarctic and Alaska (750 x 460cm as opposed to the larger format 1000 x 690cm) but still contain a wealth of information and colour photographs.

falklands  FALKLANDS_MAP_SIDE

south_georgia  South_Georgia_ map

Caribbean Explorer was next on the list, going into production in 2003. This gives an overview of the Caribbean Islands along with a timeline of historic events, information on wildlife etc and is ideal for the many cruise ship passengers in this area to plot their trips.

caribbean  CARIBBEAN_ISLAND_SIDE

Galapagos Islands Explorer followed in 2006 and such is the popularity of the map of this unique group of islands that it has been reprinted twice, in 2009 and 2012.

galapagos  Galapagos_Map_Side

2006 also saw us producing Mediterranean Explorer – another large format map at 1000 x 690cm, covering the whole of the Mediterranean area, north Africa and parts of the Middle east.

mediterranean  Med Map

In 2007 we moved back to the Arctic with the commencement of Greenland Explorer, with a further reprint in 2012.

greenland  Greenland_Mapside

Over the years many different versions of Explorer Maps have been produced for various travel companies, including Swan Hellenic, Gap, Quark Expeditions, Peregrine and Adventure Fleet, with their own branding on the maps.

Right at this moment we have a new title in production, which will have to remain under wraps until it is published, hopefully later this year.

These publications have been a delight to work on as they incorporate not only detailed maps of interesting places but also photographs, text and diagrams and bring all these elements together into an attractive design.

If you’re visiting any of these areas, and not just on a cruise ship, it’s certainly worth checking out these publications before you go. They’re also ideal for armchair explorers, which, I guess, is the majority of us!

A few quotes from customer’s who bought Ocean explorer Maps online

Galapagos:
“Excellent map of islands for visitor plus info on people, fauna and flora, geology and history. Local guide said it was the best map he had seen and wished he could buy it in the islands so I gave him my first copy when there last month and bought this 2nd copy for myself on return.”

South Georgia:
“loads of interesting facts about this amazing little island”

Falkland Islands:
“as someone who works in the Falklands, this is the map that I always rely on”

Antarctic:
“this map is the most detailed of this area I have seen”

Spitsbergen:
“Having checked all available maps of area, this was clearest and best presented”

Alaska:
“First class product”

You can buy Ocean Explorer Maps online at these and other stores

http://www.longitudebooks.com/find/d/50097/mcms.html
http://www.nhbs.com/ocean_explorer_maps_sefno_103383.html
http://www.mapsworldwide.com/ocean_explorer_maps_2836pub0.htm
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=nigel+sitwell

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Fascinating (Isle of Wight) Facts

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Some fascinating facts about the Isle of Wight that you probably didn’t realise that you wanted to know…..

  • The island has more overseas visitors per year than it does residents – 2,467,909 visitors in 2010/11 with a population of only about 138,400.
  • The Island has more sunshine hours than any other UK resort with on average 1800–2100 hours of sunshine per year, which is more than some areas of northern Spain.
  • The Isle of Wight is said by some to be the most haunted Island in the world.
  • The trains on the Ryde to Shanklin line are ex London Underground tube trains and were built around 1938 – making them older than some of the heritage steam engines on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
  • The Isle of Wight was called Vectis by the Romans who settled there.

Brading_Roman_Villa
Brading Roman Villa mosaic (Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brading_Roman_Villa_15.jpg) 

  • The Isle of Wight is England’s smallest county when the tide is high – Rutland being the smallest when the tide is out on the Island.
  • The world’s first radio station was set up by Marconi, at the Needles, on the western tip of the island in 1897.

Needles_Old_Battery

The Needles Battery (Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Needles,_Needles_Old_Battery_-_geograph.org.uk_-_644576.jpg)

  • The Needles battery was also used as a site for the testing and development of Britain’s space rockets.
  • Blackgang Chine, in the south of the Island, was establishment in 1843, making it the oldest amusement park in the UK and, some say, the World.

Blackgang_Chine
(Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blackgang_Chine_main_entrance.JPG)

  • According to audits, the local newspaper, the County Press, is read by approximately 90% of the Island’s adult population.
  • The tallest structure on Isle of Wight is Chillerton Down transmitting station, whose mast is 228.9-metre (751 ft) high.
  • The Isle of Wight is home to the Isle of Wight music Festival. It attracted an audience of 700,000 in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix headlining at the site at East Afton Farm.
  • The world’s biggest gathering of vintage and modern scooters, The Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally, is held on the Island in August each year with between 4,000 and 7,000 participants.
  • Adgestone Vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in Britain.
  • The hovercraft was invented and developed on the Isle of Wight by Sir Christopher Cockerell, who lived and worked in East Cowes.

hovercraft
(Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portobello_Solent_Express1_2007-07-28.jpg)

  • Formed in 1967, and active in the early 1970s, The Vectis National Party was a political party which sought independent status for the Isle of Wight, on a similar basis to other islands such as the Isle of Man.
  • The well known model village at Godshill incorporates a model village of itself. It is so detailed that within that second model there is a third, even smaller, model of the village.
  • Flying Boats were developed and built by Saunders-Roe Limited at their Columbine Works, East Cowes.

flying_boat
(Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saro_Princess_G-ALUN_Farnborough_1953.jpg)

  • The Isle of Wight is one of the richest dinosaur localities in Europe, with over 20 species of dinosaur having been found on the Island. Dinosaur footprints are visible at Compton Bay, near Freshwater, at low tide.
  • When the dinosaur fossils were laid down, between 125 and 110 million years ago, the island was at a latitude similar to that of North Africa today.
  • Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat and the Island became a major holiday resort for fashionable Victorians. Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in January 1901.

Osborne_House

Osborne House (Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Osborne_House_02.jpg)

  • PCGraphics have worked on 94 projects requiring customised maps of the Isle of Wight for various clients since we started back in 1998. That’s roughly one every two months or so.

 

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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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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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Why we moved to the Isle of Wight

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Six more views of the Isle of Wight. Can you see why we decided to move here?

culver
(The cliffs at Culver with the Yarborough Monument visible on top)

bembridge_harbour
(Bembridge Harbour at dawn)

brading_marsh
(View over Brading Marsh)

st_catherines
(St Catherine’s Oratory. Known as the Pepperpot, it was built in 1328 as a lighthouse)

sandown
(Looking across Sandown Bay)

freshwater_bay
(
Sunset at Freshwater Bay)

 

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Photos courtesy of  Visit Isle of Wight.  More photos on their Facebook page.

 

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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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Google Maps

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google_maps_logo

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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