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Speaking on Map Design: General Interest Lectures

Form the history of a design classic, to a tour of world diversity, to crossing the line that divides utility from beauty, the basics of transit map design have an almost universal appeal. To enquire about a booking, contact me by email.

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Tube Map: The story of a design classic

With a rapidly expanding London Underground network, the need to help people understand how to use it became acute. Simplified messages and imagery were developed by publicity and sign designers, and eventually traditional cartography was cast aside with the assistance of Henry Beck in 1933. This lecture will look at the context in which Beck’s map developed, its inspiration and subsequent developments. The history of the map is also a history of the London Underground itself, echoing periods of relative prosperity interspersed with political turmoil. With recent and future rail developments putting the map under more and more pressure, future prospects will also be discussed.

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Transit Maps: The good, the bad, and the ugly

A lighthearted look at historic and modern urban rail maps worldwide, showing the design issues that they illustrate, and naming and shaming the worst. Highlights include:

  • My top ten all time great historic maps; the innovative and well-executed ones that raised the bar.
  • My suggestions for five modern networks that consistently release high-quality usable designs (and London isn’t one of them).
  • My ten all-time worst designs; the ones that need(ed) urgent attention, or worse, should never have left the drawing board.

A lively presentation is guaranteed, with many surprises along the way.

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Purely Decorative: The map is the reward

The best transit maps are not just effective designs, they have visual impact as well. Creative cartographers often subtly embellish their work with artistic flourishes, and the stark simplicity of stripped down unornamented designs, with their nod to Bauhaus philosophy, have their own powerful aesthetic, as achieved by Beck and others. Through the ages, designers have recognised that a map can be a work of art in its own right, and once its role as a navigational tool is put to one side, anything goes, and works of stunning beauty can result. In this lecture I explore some of the nicest examples of decoration and decorative transit maps worldwide, the most aesthetic of the minimalist creations, and talk about the motivations and the creative process behind my own work.