Tracing The History Of Cartography Through Airline Maps

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, airlines followed whatever map art trends were popular at that time from Art Nouveau to Art Deco and more styles because they need to persuade wealthy people to fly. After the Second World War, airlines changed their strategies to encourage ordinary people to fly by offering cheaper prices to fly at longer ranges.

The first scheduled passenger flight started to soar in January 1, 1914 between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. With the introduction of civil air travel, airlines had to find new and creative ways to encourage people to travel through their aircraft. Traveling by air has sparked a sense of wanderlust among people who previously traveled by train or boat.

Airlines started to be creative with their maps by adding hand-drawn illustrations with detailed drawings of different interesting places across world. In the new Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design by Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts, people are reminded of how graphic design evolved over the last hundred years.

Both authors have backgrounds in cartography and they sifted through hundreds of airline maps from both the current and defunct airlines and whittled the collection down to what they consider as the best examples of maps that could represent a century of passenger flights. Most of the airline maps were used as marketing tools to entice more and more people to travel by air.

There was so much diversity and variety in the airline maps and their creativity was staggering. There were literally thousands of examples collected from all over the world and it was difficult to whittle them down. There were lots of pictures of airlines and places where people could go to including interesting people they could meet. Graphic designers had different ideas and they tried new things to the point of distorting what the world really looks like.

Map illustrators are very innovative when it comes to map art because they want to rekindle the popularity it enjoyed centuries ago. Today, map illustrators use the same passion for details and flair for creativity that original artists invested in their map illustrations. Map art varies from childlike drawings to wonderful landscape graphics to deliver a client’s message.


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