Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Drawn to the Land

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Drawn to the Land

Article excerpt

Angharad Lewis appreciates the human touches of Wainwright's guide

Superlative information design succeeds through precision and clarity - attributes that might bring to mind computer-aided execution and analytical thought. But it also requires designers to engage their intuition about the end-user, and think about how the information they organise visually will be read and interpreted - to provide an accessible way to absorb and understand the facts. This demands a distinctively human perspective, from the emotional side of the brain, as well as sharp thinking.

Information design is often impressive for the undertaking of the task alone. Think of the cartography of early explorers; or Phyllis Pearsall's quest to map the streets of London in 1935, resulting in the first A-Z; or today's attempts to map the internet (see pages 44-45).

Alfred Wainwright was not a designer, but his remarkable mapping project, A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, is loved by designers and walkers alike.

Between 1952 and 1966 he documented this part of the English landscape in seven volumes of maps, drawings and written descriptions. He executed every page by hand, texts included. He dedicated thirteen years of his spare time to these books, apparently producing pages at a rate of one per evening; the entire seven-volume epic was planned from the first.

The guide bears the familiar hallmarks and the visual nomenclature of information design - charts, maps, diagrams - but delivered with the warmth of handwritten texts and lovingly executed drawings, all set out on pages composed by eye, housed in pocket-sized books that have the intimacy of a diary. …

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