50th Anniversary Summer School of the Society of Cartographers

On 2 September, we attended the second day of the conference at the University of Glasgow.

The Society of Cartographers (SoC) is an association of cartographers that was founded as the Society of University Cartographers at the University of Glasgow in 1964. The society renamed in 1989 to be open to all those who regularly make maps. So we at Ordnance Survey were honoured and delighted to be invited to both attend and present at the society’s fiftieth anniversary at the place where it all began.


Christopher Wesson, one of our Cartographic Design Consultants, followed on from Alex Kent’s keynote reflections on cartography with a presentation entitled ‘Aligning cartography with Ordnance Survey data products and QGIS’.

For Magdalena Low, one of our Pre- and Post-Sales Support Geographic Information Consultants, it was a great chance to further her interest in cartography and learn some new skills whilst catching up face-to-face with some of our Scottish customers.

We found all the presentations to be of great interest and were very impressed with not only the standard of output but also that even some of the most traditional of cartographers are embracing new technology and software.


Alex Kent (Canterbury Christ Church University) spoke about cartographic tradition and the ‘reboot’ of the profession for a modern world.

Chris explained how the values of Ordnance Survey cartography and the skills of a cartographer are relevant to and how they are being applied to our growing market of data and services. Cartographic styling is allowing our business customers to make better use of our data products, services and solutions; potentially also leading to a better understanding of their own information.

Sheena Barclay (Collins Bartholomew) gave an in-depth account of the evolution of The Times Atlas including tablet atlases and availability in more languages.

David Watson (Safari Maps Kenya / Photoprint Scotland) has been doing some wonderful work in improving cartography and accuracy of maps in East Africa. Driving around the Maasai Mara National Reserve in his 4×4, David has been discovering all the hidden and non-existent roads and tracks on the current maps. He has been creating improved maps and even guidebooks for many of the larger nature reserves across Kenya; and despite his aversion to modern tech-culture, he’s even released some of them as e-maps!

The afternoon session was in conjunction with the International Cartographic Association (ICA) Commission on Neocartography. Neocartography just means maps made by anyone who isn’t a cartographer by profession.

Artem Pavlenko (Mapbox) gave a brief introduction to styling maps in CartoCSS, a language used by cloud-based map platforms such as Mapbox and CartoDB. He used Mapbox Studio, the new replacement to TileMill, to demonstrate how easy this is and how responsive the map output is. The included fonts are a nice bonus.

Chris Fleming (OpenStreetMap contributor) gave one of OSM’s regular ‘state of the map’ updates and explained how much update has been achieved in Scotland so far this year.

Heikki Vesanto (thinkWhere) spoke about Map Design with QGIS, using overlapping polygons as a way to explain different style options within the software. It was an excellent follow-up to the Ordnance Survey presentation Chris had given in the morning session.

Steven Kay (GeoGeo) is a former computer developer who up until recently was working for a bank. Well we are very pleased to see that he is now making maps and visualisations because he has a natural talent for it. The portfolio of work he has accumulated in a matter of months by making use of his programming know-how is really impressive. He spoke about the many different open software packages he uses.

More information on the summer school can be found on the Society of Cartographers’ conference mini-site.



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