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American vs European style street maps

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#1
Dennis McClendon

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Well, the gossip is one thing, but the design aspects are another. Why did Canadians come to prefer the European style over the US style?
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#2
Charles Syrett

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Good question. For that matter, why do Americans prefer that style? The styles used on Google and Bing are European. The road atlases that Mapquest (formerly Geosystems) produces are also European style. As a general cartographic style, it seems to have gained a lot of popularity over the last 20-30 years. But I also know people who would rather use a Rand McNally atlas!

One factor to consider here is that the European style (for city street maps) requires a larger scale. When Mapmobility created its street maps for Canadian cities, people were treated to maps at a scale of 1:25,000 instead of the 1:35,000 - 50,000 that predominated the market. More legibility, more detail, more for your money. Maybe it's as simple as that.

Charles Syrett
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http://www.mapgraphics.com

Well, the gossip is one thing, but the design aspects are another. Why did Canadians come to prefer the European style over the US style?



#3
rudy

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Well, the gossip is one thing, but the design aspects are another. Why did Canadians come to prefer the European style over the US style?

My guess is that it looks like a more finished, more polished product. Single line street maps maybe were easier to produce in the days of repographics . . . ? Just guessing here.

#4
Charles Syrett

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My guess is that it looks like a more finished, more polished product. Single line street maps maybe were easier to produce in the days of repographics . . . ? Just guessing here.


You do have a point there. I actually oversimplified when I said Mapmobility treated Canadians to European style maps. A lot of the earlier Mapmobility maps were, in fact, single line, and for the very reason you mention -- ease of reprographic production. Most of the larger scale maps featured white roads over coloured backgrounds, without casings -- again, ease of production. If you scribe an entire city street map with double lines, you have a lot of opaquing to do on every intersection!

When digital production came along, all of the single line and white line maps were redrawn in the double style, to match the few that had originally been done that way.

BTW, I see the white line style as "European" as well. Those were popular in Europe long before they were in North America.

Charles Syrett
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#5
Dennis McClendon

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I've always thought there was a cultural difference that was more important than the production aspects.

Do you know the thing about how in Japan blocks have numbers and streets are unnamed? There's a 4-minute video of this from TED or a similar conference that I can't find. Anyway, in Europe the streets are defined by buildings. In America, the buildings are strung along the streets.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#6
rudy

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Do you know the thing about how in Japan blocks have numbers and streets are unnamed?

Gee, you learn something new every day. Cool. It could make labelling street maps easier. and indexing. Thanks for the info Dennis.

#7
Charles Syrett

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I knew about Japan (even done some Jap maps!), but not about Europe. Fascinating. But wait.....UK is part of Europe (despite what some of them seem to think!), and they number buildings along streets. :unsure:

Charles Syrett
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http://www.mapgraphics.com

I've always thought there was a cultural difference that was more important than the production aspects.

Do you know the thing about how in Japan blocks have numbers and streets are unnamed? There's a 4-minute video of this from TED or a similar conference that I can't find. Anyway, in Europe the streets are defined by buildings. In America, the buildings are strung along the streets.



#8
DaveB

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I thought I had heard somewhere that building addresses in Japan were not necessarily sequential along a street, but had something to do with when the building was built, so an older building would have a lower number for example? I could be wrong. :P

I think what Dennis was saying about European streets vs. American streets is about how we view and think about streets and buildings and how they are configured on the ground.

Possibly an over-generalization, but it seems buildings tend to be closer together in European cities/towns (more compact because they got their start when transportation was slower), so the buildings delineate the streets as polygons. You'll see this in large scale maps, even ones that encompass a whole city centre, where the road width varies, opens out into squares and plazas and roundabouts and such. And streets veer off at different angles, names change even when the direction of the street hasn't changed much or at all. Maybe that's just an American's impression of European streets?

Meanwhile, in the US, although some cities did get started a while ago when transportation was slower, buildings are often a bit more spread out, especially any distance from the downtown areas. So you can't define the streets by the buildings as much. Also streets tend to be more continuous in the US, without changes in name from one section to another. So I think in the US we tend to think of streets as linear objects.

I guess it's a combination of this, generally smaller map scales for US street maps because cities/towns are often more spread out, production and reproduction issues, styles as influenced by early mapmakers in any given place, and who knows what else (US tendency to do things different from Europe just to be different from them?) that have all lead to the difference in styles between linear US street maps and polygon or cased line European street maps. Looks like that is changing with things like Google maps. Interesting stuff nonetheless. :)
Dave Barnes
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#9
Dennis McClendon

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(Hans, maybe these last few posts should be a new topic.)

Yes, that's what I meant about the difference in the way Europeans and Americans view cities.

Business models probably are a big factor. I think that, in Europe, national and even regional map publishers have been around for more than a century. In the US, the dominant firm in many cities began as an amateur draftsman (Thomas Bros., Key, Mapsco, etc. who just used pen and ink for a couple of decades.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#10
David Medeiros

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I knew about Japan (even done some Jap maps!)...


Yikes... I'd be more careful with that expression. It's not as benign some think.

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#11
Charles Syrett

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Dennis, I think these points are all valid. Of course, there are always oddball exceptions. Check out this page from the Hagstrom map book of New York City. Pretty European looking, huh? On the other hand, the company was started in 1916 by a Swedish immigrant.

Definitely pen and ink. Look closely, and you'll see it's hand lettered, too.

Attached Files



#12
Charles Syrett

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No harm was meant. :)

Charles Syrett
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I knew about Japan (even done some Jap maps!)...


Yikes... I'd be more careful with that expression. It's not as benign some think.



#13
Esther Mandeno

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I didn't know that about Japanese maps - thanks! Very cool. Hmm...I should have something to add to this discussion, but I don't...

Ok, since I do not know much about European maps, just what are the differences? I took a look at the hand drawn map above that Charles added, but that just looks like a different style of map than I am accustomed to. Are their specific guidelines that European maps follow that are strikingly different from ours as in the Japanese example?
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Esther Mandeno
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#14
Charles Syrett

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Ok, since I do not know much about European maps, just what are the differences? I took a look at the hand drawn map above that Charles added, but that just looks like a different style of map than I am accustomed to. Are their specific guidelines that European maps follow that are strikingly different from ours as in the Japanese example?

I suppose that, in an academic sense, this entire discussion is misguided....I never actually defined what I meant by "European style". A professor would cringe! I -- and many others -- use this term casually, to refer to a cartographic style in which (at large scales) roads are shown wide enough so that their names are in the roads rather than on them (and the roads are usually double lined), and (at small scales) roads/highways are usually shown with double or triple lines. Generally speaking, in the "European" style, the scales are larger, more details are shown, and more colours are used. Shaded relief was common on European maps long before it was on North American maps.

The North American style, by contrast, has usually been at smaller scales, and shows roads as single lines. I've heard the term "stick map" used to describe these maps (heck, I've used the term myself).

Esther, I think that maybe the reason you refer to this as "just another style" is because the distinction has become blurred over the last few decades. In the 70's, you just had to look around in a map store to see the marked difference in styles. The maps of European places were all done in what (to us North Americans) appeared to be a rich, even exotic style (and usually with a price to match!). But the North American maps were, well, stick maps! (Affordable, though.)

Digital production has made the creation of more elaborately designed maps far easier, so it's not surprising that the "European" style has become so widespread now. With Google and Bing using it, it's become almost an expectation.

Shaded relief is another feature that's come along for the ride with digital production. What was once the exclusive domain of such luminaries as Imhof, Shelton, and Toth, can now be done (in some basic sense) by any school kid -- so now we have all these maps with unnecessary and distracting relief images on them! :huh:

Charles Syrett
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#15
Dennis McClendon

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The big differences to me are that "European" maps:
  • use casings or double lines, even for highway maps
  • on street maps, differentiate main streets by color (usually yellow) rather than line weight
  • show outlines of built-up areas or building footprints

Hagstrom, ADC, Champion and similar maps use double lines for streets, but have none of the more important attributes of European "city plans."

I think single-line maps were uncommon, even for small-scale US street maps, before the 20th century. Chicago, for example, is huge by European standards at 227 sq mi (588 sq km). Yet the earliest "stick map" in my rather large collection is a 1925 one from Clason. Rand McNally used a double-line style well into the 1950s.

I'm always charmed by examples that crossed the Atlantic, strangers in a strange land. In my collection is an early 196os Falkplan of St. Louis (!), for example, and several General Drafting maps of European countries and cities in the simple American style that I prefer.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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