Spot the Differences – the answers

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Last week we gave you two maps with 10 differences, how many did you find?

Here’s the answers, ringed in red on the map.

Screen Shot answer

(Map contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2016)

The map, above, is copyright Ordnance Survey. So, who are the Ordnance Survey? Here’s a very brief history.

The O.S. is the national mapping agency of Great Britain and is one of the world’s largest map producers. Ordnance Survey came about because of the lack of decent maps of Scotland following the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 and the threat of war with Napoleon.

The survey of Great Britain was originally carried out using triangulation methods but, more recently, aerial photography has become the chief source for updating and creating new mapping.

In April 2010, Ordnance Survey made available large amounts of data which, whilst still being O.S. copyright, is free to use. Ordnance Survey copyright lasts for 50 years, meaning that, currently, any O.S. mapping pre 1965 is now out of copyright.

Since 2011 Ordnance Survey’s headquarters have been at Adanac Park, Southampton, England.

 

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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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More old maps…

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We’ve taken our lives in our hands once again, ventured into the dusty corner of the office and raided the filing cabinet to bring you some more scans of old UK maps, this time it’s from a book called ‘The Popular Road Book of Great Britain’.

The Popular Road Book is undated but, judging by some of the information on the maps, it must have been published just before the Second World War, so the late 1930s is our best guess (apparently, it was after the war that the Western Avenue in west London was changed from the A403 to the A40; the London map shown here has the Western Avenue as the A403, hence our rough guess for the map being mid to late 1930s).

The original book is quite battered and brown/grey now (after about 80 years it’s not surprising) but we’ve cleaned these scans up a bit in Photoshop so they look somewhat better.

If you look back through this blog you’ll find lots of other old maps and guide books which we’ve put online from time to time.

We originally purchased our library of old maps to help us create royalty free UK mapping. Going back a few years, Ordnance Survey was very restrictive, and expensive, to base any new mapping upon, so we were forced to go to great lengths (buying maps more than 50 years old plus street checking every town and city and, more latterly, using GPS to plot motorway alignments around the country) to make new maps.

Since April 2010 however, a lot of the restrictions have been lifted and it’s easier and cheaper to use Ordnance Survey data as the basis for any new UK maps.

The maps shown here are Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry,
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester,
Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth,
Sheffield, Southampton and Stoke.

Click on any of the maps to enlarge them.

Birmingham BradfordBristolCardiff Coventry EdinburghGlasgowHullLeedsLeicesterLiverpoollondonManchesterNewcastleNottinghamplymouthPortsmouthSheffieldSouthamptonStoke

Remember, you can find out about all our NEW maps on our website.

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Fancy something different to read? Try the new novel from Paul Webb – available now from Amazon.

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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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Ward-Lock Red Guide Books – Edinburgh

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Following on from our look at vintage Glasgow, Bath and Harrogate guide books, here we take a trip back to Edinburgh in 1952, courtesy of Ward-Lock’s Red Guide.

edinburgh_front_cover

Maps are an important part of any guide book but there were only three maps in the Red Guide to Edinburgh, which is quite surprising by today’s standards, especially considering that the Guide Book is getting on for 200 pages long.

The first map was an overview map of the area surrounding Edinburgh. Then, further into the Guide, came the map of central Edinburgh (an extract of which we’ve shown below) and, near the end, a map of the Portobello region.

One of our own maps of Edinburgh is shown here for comparison.

edinburgh_map

(Extract from the 1952 map of Edinburgh included in the Ward Lock Guide Book)

Edinburgh_Town_Plan

(Our own map of Edinburgh produced a few years ago for Thomson Local Directories)

Although the maps are interesting – and pretty essential in any guide book both in 1952 and today – the adverts in the Red Guides are also of interest and give a unique insight into the way things were then and how they’ve changed today.

In 1952 the predominant advertisers in the Guide Books were Insurance Companies, not something you’d find in too many Guide Books these days. In fact, there were six individual adverts for insurance, most of them full page advertisements, in the Edinburgh guide. There were also three adverts for Banks – the Westminster Bank, National Provincial Bank and the Standard Bank of South Africa.

edinburgh_advert_4  edinburgh_advert_3edinburgh_advert_2

The text in the Guide Book can be quite amusing too. Does anyone in the UK remember when shops used to close for a half day once a week? How about fishmongers closing on Monday afternoons; drapers and jewellers on Tuesdays; bakers, butchers, grocers, chemists, hairdressers and stationers on Wednesdays; plus most of the shops on Princes Street in Edinburgh on Saturday afternoons? Imagine having to keep track of that lot and arranging your weekly shop around when they were actually open! No wonder supermarkets, opening 24/7, took over.

early_closing

And, just in case you wanted to know how you should visit Edinburgh, we’ve included here the text from a few of the pages – all written in what seems like a rather quaint way, but this was probably standard for the time.

Edinburgh in Half a Day is typical of this:

If one has but half a day to devote to Edinburgh and no private car to speed – or hamper – one, it is possible (with the occasional aid of public conveyances and without overtaxing one’s legs) to ‘do’ most of the major sights, after a fashion; but while the New Town openly displays its charms and its story is such that he who runs may read, it must be borne in mind that the Old Town hides many of its rarest treasures in obscure corners – courts and closes, wynds and vennels – which baffle the hustling globe-trotter and can only be explored on foot.

 

how_to_see_edinburgh in_half_day_2

Some of the places of interest listed for Edinburgh in 1952 included the Public Library, the Register House and the Signet Library (but, please note that use of this library is granted only to applicants who have been ‘suitably recommended’).

places_of_interest

At PCGraphics we have many more of these Ward Lock Guide Books, plus other maps and tourist books, all more than 50 years old and some as old as 100 years. They were originally bought to give us ‘royalty free’ source material for creating town and city plans of the UK. That requirement has now been largely made redundant by the freeing up of Ordnance Survey data but they are still a fascinating insight into times gone by.

(You can click on any of the images above to view them at a larger size)

 

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Transport Maps

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Buses, trams, trains – most of us use these at one time or another and many of us need maps to help us navigate the various transport systems, especially when the town or city is unfamiliar to us. Transport maps were therefore an important and high profile addition to the range of maps we could offer our clients.

We began producing maps for transport companies back in 2004 when we created our first maps for the Nottingham Tram Consortium. The initial project consisted of a system overview map plus detailed maps of each tram stop with each map showing the surrounding streets etc.

Nottingham_Trams_System   nottingham_system_extract

(Left, the system overview map and right, an enlarged extract showing the level of detail on the map)

In total there were 23 tram maps and these all followed a similar style to the Old Market Square map shown below, and all incorporating local information including pubs, museums, Council Offices, libraries, tourist information centres etc.

Old_Market_Square

tram_photo

(Above, trams at the Old Market Square on the Nottingham Tram network – photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Next we moved on to buses and in 2006 we began work on a large project for Yellow Buses in Bournemouth where we mapped every bus route across the conurbation of Bournemouth, Boscombe, Poole and parts of Christchurch. The network map, below, covers the complete area and shows not only the bus routes but most of the main roads across the whole of the area.

Bournemouth_Network

In addition to this, we also created what were termed Spider Maps, along with schematic maps and route maps for each individual bus route on the system.

The schematic map was a stylised map of all the bus routes – similar in design to the iconic London Underground maps, and a simple way to find your way around Bournemouth by bus, but not, of course, geographically accurate.

Bournemouth_Schematic

(Above, Yellow Buses schematic map)

The Spider Maps took the schematic map and highlighted each of the major bus intersections in a separate map with detail on where to board each individual bus. The map below shows the Boscombe Spider Map.

Spider_Boscombe

(Boscombe Spider Map)

We also created route maps for Yellow Buses where every bus stop on the bus route was shown. The route map below is a good example and is for the number 5 route from Bournemouth Town Centre to Kinson.

route_map

All of the maps above were based on Ordnance Survey material, rather than royalty free, as this was the quickest and easiest method for producing them.

A few years after the Yellow Bus maps we produced a map of the Isle of Wight showing all the Southern Vectis bus routes around the Island. Our client for this project was Island Holiday Media (now trading as Solent) whom we still work with today. This was just one of many maps of the Island which we worked on before moving over here in 2010.

southern_vectis

We’re hoping to be producing more transport maps in the not too distant future, possibly airline route maps – something which we haven’t covered as yet.

(Copyright notice – Some of the maps above contain Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights 2014)

 

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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.

london4

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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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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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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A retrospective view of 2013

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Here’s a quick look back at some of the highlights of what we did in 2013. In Facebook terms you might call this the PCGraphics Timeline for 2013.

 

January 2013

WALES

Maps of Torquay, Brixham and Paignton in Devon, UK, produced for a marketing company. Created from scratch and based on Ordnance Survey data.

London

Wasted our time producing this A4 map of London for another marketing company (serving the luxury hotel industry) who requested this map then changed their minds after we’d produced it. Which is why we now nearly always ask for money upfront with new clients – saves dealing with time wasters.

February

henley

A simple but nice little map of Henley on Thames produced for a publisher of historical books – one of many maps we’ve produced over the years for this client. Again, based on Ordnance Survey material.

March

Template

In March we produced a series of 7 maps showing the location of artistic venues for Isle of Wight Arts.

April

Print

A map of Cowes and East Cowes created for the ferry company Red Funnel and displayed at the ferry terminal.

May

POW

Perhaps not the most visually exciting map that we’ve produced but then, considering the subject, maybe it’s right not to be. This map plots the route taken by 1500 Prisoners of War in 1945 from Poland to Berlin, with approximately half the journey made on foot. The book is called The Long Road, by Oliver Clutton-Brock.

June

ATG 09 design template

One of probably hundreds of maps produced over the years for one of our most valued clients for use in their travel brochures and website. This particular example being an overview map of China.

July

seamus

Seamus takes a leap into the pool during a well earned holiday in the sun in Menorca.

August

helpful

We update around 17 maps for Helpful Holidays on an annual basis around August time.

September

Basic CMYK

In September we started a series of walk maps which are produced at A1 size, encapsulated in clear acrylic sheets and wall mounted at Health Centres around the UK. We have been busy creating these from September through till December.

October

CPM2 Template landscape.ai

Map of Rhodes produced for another long term client. We’re fortunate to have worked with a number of clients over a long period of time. We still have clients today who we first worked with soon after we started PCGraphics back in 1998.

November

A4 Assura Template

Still working on the series of walk maps for UK Heath Centres.

December

montage

Work starts on a new title for Ocean Explorer Maps – another valued client we’ve worked with for many years. Work in progress at the moment, more details to come soon.

And that, folks, was 2013. Let’s all hope that 2014 is equally as good.

 

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Coals to Newcastle?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vatican
(Zoomed in section of map)

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

Next…….

world_text_4
(Republic of Ireland extract)

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

world_text_5
(France/Spain extract)

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

world_text_2
(Sweden extract)

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

world_text_3
(Spain/France extract, again)

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

world_text
(UK extract)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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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