Is this the Greatest Road and Street Map of Great Britain – The Design

Exploring the design of Geographers’ A-Z Map data I spoke with our Chief Draughtsman Mark McConnell who talked me through the origin and some of the detail in the design.

The cartographic design was originally created as a Black and White publication, therefore, road classifications were presented by using a combination of casing line weight, road width, and label font. These features are incorporated to identify different feature groups that create the consistent and familiar presentation of information that characterises the Geographers’ A-Z Map design.

Coventry Black and White Street Excerpt

Originally designed in black and white A-Z Map design enables clear and easy to see route classifications

Today, the same classic A-Z design vibrant colours clearly identify and separate map features. Cyan for drainage and green for woodland, parks and recreation grounds are obvious choices. Others have been chosen to be highly visible whilst also considering their interaction with other features. For example, bright orange A roads and the equally striking yellow B roads have been carefully selected to allow red features (A and B road numbers, one-way arrows, borough boundaries and symbols) to stand out on them.

In urban areas, the warm built-up area colour lifts the white minor roads from the page. Other colours, used to identify road restrictions and building-use, are balanced as a whole, being equally visible across the map

Coventry Colour Excerpt

The colourful A-Z Map design has been carefully considered to ensure the road network is easy to read. 

Although we probably look at maps now more than at any other time in history—thanks to their digital ubiquity do we appreciate the thoughtfulness in design and careful combination of design elements to ensure this cartography is perfect for road and street map?


Showing 2 comments
  • Neil Ayres

    I remember my A-Z of London when i was a student there in the 70’s. It certainly was a well thumbed book, especially if you did the Young’s brewery challenge (have a pint in every Young’s pub in London).

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Isle of dogs 1956 A-Z Street mapping