I have always loved maps. Ever since I was a boy I have enjoyed pouring over them. I would imagine all the places I could visit and all the wondrous things there would be there to see. Maps are like stories. You read them and they talk to you. They tell the tales of our history and the plans for our future.
I like the way that the land is represented through colour and symbols, naively and simply, if not simplistically at times. Water is blue, beeches are yellow, woods are green and contours are picked out in brown. Roads are red or blue but not black. That is kept for railways. Churches, hospitals and milestones are dotted across the paper.
The cartographer transforms the terrain into something that we can comprehend, analyse and interpret. The symbols are set out to help us make sense of where we are. We can translate the images back into something meaningful.
What we can easily forget when looking at maps though is that they are not reality, just a representation of how the world appears. The sky is not sky blue and the sea is not sea green.
I’ve wanted a different projection of Durham though. I now know they are called cartograms. Hannah wisely said that a cartogram is just a spatial pie chart and she is right. They are where the geometry or space of the map is distorted in order to convey information about some variable such as population or gross domestic product.
Christine had mocked one up for me showing the relative number of business parks against the former district boundaries. It was still recognisable as Durham but some areas were much smaller than what we were used to.
It still is Durham, just a different view. It is as representative of our county as the standard Ordnance Survey map is only we are more used to looking at them. Cartograms can change our perceptions, challenge our thinking and make us look at problems and opportunities in different ways and from different projections.
Christine has promised me some more. I can’t wait to take them to my colleagues. I’ve always loved maps.