By: Blonde Two

I was sent a book for Christmas. A fantastic book that is full of maps but not maps as we navigators usually know them. Unless you wanted to walk along a Roman road to Rome, this book would be useless. It is however packed full of information set out on maps of countries and the world. And what a fantastic range of information it offers. For example in one five minute session (it is my new ‘I need a break from work’ favourite) I found out that…

  • Male circumcision is very popular in the USA and northern Africa (possibly not immediately after it has occurred)
  • There are very few countries in the world that do not have red and/or blue in their flags (remember New Zealand’s flag redesign saga?)
  • In Australia there is a 26-letter place name that means, ‘Where the devil urinates’ (on my next visit list!)
  • I can’t dig right through the earth to reach my cousins in New Zealand (as a child I used to try)
  • Iceland runs on Greenwich Mean Time despite being across to the west (I should know that, I have been there)

Pictorial representation isn’t a new thing, the earliest cave paintings yet discovered give us a unique glimpse into a world that is 44,000 years old. You could however argue that pictorial representation is undergoing a renaissance. In the world of marketing, visual content is king. From memes to easily-digestible infographics (here’s my Dartmoor Wild Camping Infographic), for many people the visual delivers a message more effectively that the written.

Maybe that is why we all love maps so much. Once we can speak their language, symbols, contour lines, colour shades etc, we have access to a happy almost wordless world. Some maps have more easily translated languages than others. Take Ordnance Survey’s new Walk London map as an example. More pictorial than their usual maps, the fantastic illustrations of Walk London give glimpses of what you will actually see as you walk (the writing is pretty good too!) Back in the land of Explorer Maps, Blonde One and I have, over the years, found plenty of nature reserves but are still looking for our first giant blue duck.

The London Tube Map on the other hand gives you no idea of what a tube train looks like or even where you will actually be going. (If you want to know that by the way, you should talk to Ian Wright, the author of my new book ‘Brilliant Maps, An Atlas for the Curious Mind’. His mind was once so curious he walked the entire London Underground network at street level.

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