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You get what you pay for: Very Expensive Maps is a podcast by cartographer Evan Applegate in which he interviews better cartographers.

Remember: you can, and should, make your own maps.

Anyone I should talk to? Let me know below or via veryexpensivemaps at gmail dot com

Episode 9: Aurélien Boyer-Moraes

 Aurélien Boyer-Moraes’ maps

Lisbon transit cartographer and designer Aurélien Boyer-Moraes talks learning to use a computer at 19, creating his first 3x4 ft. transit map of an imagined Brazilian city after reading Jacques Bertin’s Semiology of Graphics cover-to-cover, preempting Google Street View in Lyon with his 6x6 Seagull camera, ten years of designing transit maps for French cities with Attoma, and his heavily-annotated collection of 2,100 transit and city maps (which he might let you see someday.)

Indented below are Aurélien’s notes on my notes (he is, as you can imagine, a precise man).

  • Transit maps originally designed by Aurélien
    • Metz, and Aurélien’s original design 
      • “The colors were imposed, there was no discussion, the use of these specific colors was mandatory because they were the new colors of the authority overseeing the transport in the agglomeration. They do not convey any specific information, which is against my general ‘credo’, but we had to use them in the map.”
    • Toulouse
      • “My map had a strong palette which was consistent with the offer (the headways and the span of service) as you can see in the original from sept 2013, but it was scrapped in-house.”
    • Dijon
      • “A picture of a bus stop with the maps displayed (plan schématique général and the city center) and a pdf of an early version of the paper maps as they were issued in three different configurations: North, SE and SW (SO for sud-ouest), only the geographic map changed accordingly, the plan schématique remained the same, it was the reference. This initial configuration was irrelevant for a city of this size (250,000 inhabitants), then they reversed back to a single issue with, on one side the schéma + the center + information, and overleaf the geographic map.”
    • Lyon, and Aurélien’s original design
  • Milan street map, completed in under two weeks
  • Lisbon bus, tram and subway map
  • Marseilles transit as of 1957
  • Vignelli’s 1972 NYC subway map (cropped seven years later without his input, quelle horreur!)
    • “I have a lot of respect for the early version of the map that the MTA committee led by Tauranac (with Michael Hertz as designer) released in 1979 (and was left almost untouched until the 1990s).

      One of the most relevant features of this map was the introduction of a very well thought out color code system by trunk in Mahanttan, which finally served also Vignelli since it makes his redesign of 2008 even more efficient! I am not a ‘blind pro-Vignelli, all against-1979 map.’ It is way more subtle than that.

      Although the 1979 map evolved in such a wrong way since the mid-1990s, that today it is a spaghetti plate, and the redesign—first with the weekender and then with the opening of the first section of the 2nd subway line (after the demise of Vignelli)—by Cifuentes-Waterhouse in 2017 is more than ever powerfull thanks to the work of the 1979 committee.”
  • Jarret Walker: a transit planning consultancy
    • “The last works I've done for Jarrett Walker were minor in comparison with the nearly ten years of collaboration with the Paris design studio Attoma (though since 2016 they pivoted so much that the current studio shares just the name with the one I've worked with, between early 2007 and september 2016).”
  • Sanborn insurance maps of Manhattan
  • Two cartographers Aurélien would like to honor:
    • “A Frenchman (for once) civil engineer from the prestigious École des ponts et chaussées, from the 19th century Charles-Joseph Minard (1781-1870) whose work is stilll pretty obscure to the general public, I learnt about him while reading The Visual Quantitative Display of Quantitative Information by Tufte, and you can easily find information about his impressive charts on the www.”
    • “A Swiss designer (alive) who worked mostly in France, Rudi Meyer, he designed the 1976 splendid RER diagram and the French Railway system map that was on display from the late 1970s until 2011 in the trains (one of my lifetime references I completely forgot to talk about). I marked a tribute to him by redesigning and updating his late diagram for the 40 year anniversary of the TGV. His diagram was scrapped shamelessly by the SNCF 14 years ago, you can see the orginal here, and mine is here. Here is the original post I made with the story behind it on LinkedIn.”

Episode 8: Bill Marsh

Mill Marsh's Philadelphia map

Philadelphia cartographer and New York Times graphics editor Bill Marsh describes his 30-year project to map his adopted city, getting the Philadelphia Inquirer to chopper a photographer over the city on his behalf, his collection of hyper-dense axonometric maps, and the bygone days of hand-inked editorial graphics (an early project: mapping the nuclear annihilation of Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

Episode 7: Travis Folk

Travis Folk's maps

Travis Folk, Green Pond wildlife biologist and map designer for New World Cartography discusses working with artist Tony Waters, radio-tracking northern bobwhites (quail) under the pines of the Conecuh National Forest, memorializing Aldo the Llewellin Setter on a map of game birds, and agreeing to a 9x14-ft project before knowing exactly how to uh, install a 9x14-ft project (it turned out great).

Episode 6: Alex McPhee

Alex McPhee's maps

Val Marie independent cartographer Alex McPhee describes teaching himself to make enormous reference maps, his pre-mapping road trips, rural Saskatchewanians’ surprise in finding every train station on his provincial map (they didn’t believe him), how cartographers need to observe people interacting with their maps, and how nothing sells huge paper maps like a radio interview.

Episode 5: Kate Tarling

Kate Tarling's maps

Bristol textile artist and mapmaker Kate Tarling talks freehand machine embroidering coastlines onto lampshades, her preference for silk paints (despite the hassle), color inspiration from her garden, and how she does most of her sketching in her head during dog walks.

Episode 4: Sara Drake

Sara Drake's maps

Fremantle mapmaker, artist and illustrator Sara Drake on her first globe, her two-year wait list, the challenge of photographing her ultra-detailed 3D maps, and adding to a piece until “someone physically wrestles it out of [her] hands.”

Map artists she likes:

Episode 3: Mike Hall

Mike Hall's maps

British illustrator and cartographer Mike Hall talks early mapping projects of his native Harlow, his favorite map aesthetic, the relaxing practice of coastline-tracing and how he will type and place 1,500 labels but will not make a “Where's Wally?” map.

Episode 2: Anna Eshelman

Anna Eshelman's maps

Oregon cartographic designer, illustrator and production artist Anna Eshelman talks sketching Mt. Rainier while pulling 26-mile days on the Wonderland Trail, why she begins her illustrations with a blunt pencil, and the enormous manual shaded relief she’d finish if she had any time.

Episode 1: Alex Hotchin

Alex Hotchin's maps

Australian cartographer and illustrator Alex Hotchin talks about cycling from Scotland to Cambodia sans GPS and “a career drawing how beautiful the world can be.”

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Interviews recorded with Cleanfeed or Ennui Castr or, if I need to use an actual phone call, Google Voice/WhatsApp + Audio Hijack (vidcalls delenda est), edited with Audacity, hosted with Spotify for Podcasters, audio sometimes cleaned up with Adobe Podcast, I do not recommend this mic. Site designed with Dorik which I like because it’s fast.


Evan Applegate, I’ve mapped for twelve years, you’ll see my work in National Geographic, Manhattan lobbies, at the fête next to the funnel cake. Anyone can make a map and everyone should try their hand.