Giving “Map Artwork” heightened meaning since 1986.
Raven Maps and Images was established in Medford, Oregon in 1986 by a mapmaker and a marketer. Walls would never be the same again.
The two men named their cartography company ‘Raven’ to honor the majestic bird that sees everything from on high. They had had discussions for the five years prior about the potential of selling maps as fine art. They concluded that there was great opportunity – among cartography specialists, map lovers, armchair travelers, and those who like things that are exquisitely well-made and expressive - to create handcrafted, large-format state topographic maps.
Mapmaker Stuart Allan and marketing entrepreneur Michael Beard brought on printer Scott McLeod and the three have been partners ever since. They began producing large-format state maps and completed the entire United States in 2003. Their elegant maps enjoy an almost cult following – art directors use them to set a tone at fashion shoots and on movie sets, while map geeks deconstruct them in on-line forums and at cartography discussions.
Raven mapmakers gather data from the U.S. Geological Survey and then embellish their maps with numerous topographical nuances and delicate highlights. They have now defined an aesthetic for wall maps and map artwork. Without a doubt, Raven Maps are perfectly representational and precise. But that’s only the beginning. These serious maps are serious artistry, because beyond the clarity is the distinct design. A Raven Map is a visually satisfying blend of hues, colors, and lines. They beckon you in.
How Map Making Has Changed In This Century
Pre-computer, Stuart Allan’s work was unbelievably painstaking. A map could take thousands of hours to create. Imagine making a dimensional representation of a landmass requiring layers of sheets to show nuanced aspects, and the cartographer's only tools were of steel and sapphire.
Today, with the Raven Map aesthetic established – and fully consistent - state-by-state, the company’s mapmakers are focused on squeezing the most out of the digital technology now at their fingertips. They can experiment with design elements and depict a mountain range with deep folds and sharp pinnacles. It’s a revelation for them and for map-gazers alike.
Raven Maps are often given as gifts. Fans gladly share their map love with friends and family and with that enthusiasm, the appeal expands. But Raven Maps will never be mass marketed. Only aficionados understand what the company has accomplished in producing their one-of-a-kind maps. These days when we are glued to our cell phones and use GPS to find our way around, we can still hold a place in our hearts for authentic experiences – like vinyl over MP3, like slow cooked over microwaved. We can use Google to get there, but we much prefer the precision and poetry of a Raven Map to be transported there.
Next time you watch Sideways or look at the cover of John McPhee’s “Assembling California”, see if you can spy a Raven Map. We’re also thrilled to share ‘sightings’ on our Facebook page.