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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, and now airline maps give an extra dimensions. To enquire about a booking, contact me by email.

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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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Airline Maps: A century of art & design

From the first faltering steps across fields, then water and mountains, to today’s mass transit of the skies, aircraft have revolutionised travel and our perception of the world itself. Cartographers and artists mapping the new routes must have enjoyed the challenge and the excitement of showing people that the impossible was now possible, and everywhere was now within easier reach than ever before. The development of airline maps tells not only the story of passenger flight itself, but also 20th Century advertising and design: From sumptuous Art Deco and intricate artistry, to modernism, ’60s psychedelia, and clever photography, and even Tube map-style diagrams.

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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. We will look at the context in which Beck’s map developed, the inspiration behind it and subsequent developments. The history of the map also tells the story
of the London Underground itself, echoing periods of prosperity and political turmoil. With rail developments putting the map under more and more pressure, what will the future bring?

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The Decade of Diagrams

Straight lines were not invented by Henry Beck for the London Underground, and even after his famous design was introduced, parallel creations were appearing elsewhere which were unlikely to have been inspired by
his work. The 1920s and 1930s were a period of massive creativity and innovation, and maps were no exception.
We will be taking a journey around the world enjoying the clever, stylish and bizarre creations that were a hallmark of the quest for modernistic simplicity.

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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. We will explore some of the nicest examples of decoration and decorative transit maps worldwide, the most aesthetic of the minimalist designs, and I will talk about the motivations and the creative process behind my own work.