12 June 2008

Points Without Lines

I will be publicly showing first drafts of The Map of Connections before the year is out. I am not certain what it will look like yet. A phase of graphical experimentation now begins. The above map is, as you can see, completely abstracted from the land. It shows all the connections I have mapped so far.

3 June 2008

Phyllis Pearsall

I have been reading about the life and work of Phyllis Pearsall. In the 1930s she noticed that London maps were completely inadequate. No surveying had been done in over ten years. So, she started walking, covering all of London’s 23,000 streets in the course of one year. That is about 3000 miles. Her map became the London A-Z. At first no publishers wanted to publish her new map so she set up the Geographer’s Map Company to do it herself.

By now the A-Z has become an exemplar of 20th century information design. One touch I particularly admire is marking house numbers on three points along each street, beginning, middle and end. There would not be enough space to include every house number but three is sufficient to describe the numerical trend of each row. As far as I know Pearsall invented this. Yet Pearsall never saw herself as a designer, but as an artist who drifted in cartography because bad maps were always getting her lost on the way to parties.

Pearsall’s get-up-and-go, grounded methodology, and plentiful eccentricities are enough to qualify her as a hero to my project. She is also an example of how the work of an independent cartographer can be absorbed into the mainstream if deemed useful (Pearsall herself gained an MBE). The A-Z is by now such a cornerstone of British Atlases that many people would probably be surprised to know it all began with an individual woman, walking and taking notes.