Maps may be one of the most pleasing reference tools in which form and function meet. Some of the books we produce include maps created by our production artist (and resident cartographer), Jeremy Linden. We recently sat down to look through some of the maps he has made for our clients and to discuss his mapmaking process.

What was the first map you worked on at Marquand Books?

In 2009, I created our first in-house map; it was for the book The Arts of Africa. I traced out the map, drew in the country outlines, and put the labels where the client wanted them. We went through a couple different color schemes as I worked with the designer to coordinate the map with the theme of the book.

Tracing the outline was pretty tedious. When you’re doing it, you’re working really close up to the map, but when you zoom out, you have this awesome, detailed coastline. Making the map was really fun; for some reason, I really enjoyed it.

What were the next maps you made?

 The year after The Arts of Africa we did a much smaller, less-detailed map of Japan for the book Dreams and Diversions. Then we worked on a few small figure illustrations. The next big one—which is probably one of my favorite maps—was for the Art of Armor.

Why is this one your favorite?

 It was more detailed and, because of the book’s design, it allowed me to be more stylized. I also had a full, double-page spread to work with. This book included a timeline, so I designed the timeline and map to match. I got to come up with icons and keys myself, so I drew little daimyo castles. It’s gratifying to take the maps and adjust them to complement the design of the book—in this case, the black and orange of the map plays with the Japanese lacquer and the rusty orange colors of the armor.

The map of Australia in Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art is very detailed. Tell me about your design process.

 I made this map right after Art of Armor, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t look the same. I really like the dark background of the Art of Armor map, but I didn’t want to go that route again. With this one, I picked up the color from the text and tried to make the elements reflect the aboriginal art, with the repeating lines and dots.

What books tend to include maps?

So far, it’s been books with specific regional information. The Arts of Africa and Ancestral Modern are good examples—they want to show where in the area art came from. With Ancestral Modern, topography plays into in the actual works of art. We’re working on a book now about French faience and porcelain, and the map will show locations of the manufactories. We’re also working on a book about van Gogh, and that map will include biographical information about where the artist lived and how those regions influenced his art.

What do you like about designing maps?

I love maps; I think they ground the story. And making maps seems so simple—it’s just an infographic—but there really is an art to it. It’s not that you’re coming up with something new, but you get to decide how you will take the information and present it. That’s when it starts to become fun.

If you could design any map, what would it be? 

I would probably do a non-fictional place. I’d like to try my hand at making a map look antique. So far, my maps have been very clean—just information. They look very modern. But some of the maps we’ve had made in the past look almost painted. I think painting a map digitally would be a fun challenge.

[Originally posted on May 30, 2012]