Procedural Knowledge of Graphic Design for Analysing Graphic Elements in Historical Urban Maps
Keywords: historical urban map, graphic design, graphic element, visual language, colour
Abstract. Early modern maps are important records of urban development, providing detailed information on changing social and economic patterns, as well as offering insights into historic techniques of cartographic representation. On maps, a variety of information is translated to readers through graphic elements. The functions and meanings of graphic elements such as symbols and colour are known from and widely applied in graphic design. This paper discusses links between graphic design and historical urban maps, to explore a new interdisciplinary perspective to develop further the understanding of functions and meanings of graphic elements within historical urban maps. In particular, graphic design methods are here used to analyse historical hand-coloured London maps produced before the 19th century. There are few records detailing the visual properties of historical London maps. In this context, it may be useful to apply graphic design research methods such as visual analysis and semiotics. Focussing on examples from maps in the 15th and 16th centuries, we suggest that graphic elements such as shape and colour could have been utilized by artists for specific functions and purposes, arguably making these maps early forms of graphic design. Furthermore, information design principles may be used to further the analysis of historical urban maps, in particular the way colour is used for coding information. These findings suggest graphic elements have historically been used to translate information on urban maps, which can create much richer meanings on maps than previously understood.