Tim Rich raises the interesting question of the seemingly un-recognised design credentials of the London A-Z Street Atlas. (DW 7 June). I would like to offer some thoughts that may help to suggest why this may be so.
Henry Beck’s London Underground map is a unique one-off graphic design and route-finder to the largely invisible “Tube system” with minimal or no reference to the physical reality. However, the London A-Z Atlas, despite its very extreme stylisation, is mapping following the street pattern on the ground and is, therefore, purely representational in content.
Furthermore, it uses cartographic conventions that are not unique, but part of the mapmaker’s stock in trade. There are also many other street atlases using very similar stylisation to that of A-Z. It is true that the book concept “A-Z London” and its design and presentation has become iconic and perhaps a victim of its own success, precisely because it is as familiar as the brands Sellotape and Hoover. Increasingly, both the buying public and sometimes even the retail book trade consider any atlas an “A-Z” and consequently the brand name could be in danger of being lost.
May I conclude with a couple of corrections to Rich’s narrative: Geographers’ A-Z Map Company is the publisher responsible for the day-to-day trading of the company, not Geographers’ Map Trust, and Geographers’ A-Z Map Company only publishes maps and atlases covering the United Kingdom, not worldwide.