Career Corner: A Look at Cartography

Cartography has a long history within the organization. The Auto Club produced its first TourBook back in 1909. Its 388 pages included almost 100 pages of maps, which led to the creation of a map drafting department in 1911. By 1914, there were five people in the department. Today, it has eight cartographers, including one of the nation’s last field cartographers, Shane Henry, who drives across the West noting the safety of each dirt road. The team works on 70 folded map titles for many states, including Texas, Maine, Alabama, and California; and more than 2 million maps are handed out to members each year. The department is led by Alyson Stanton, Manager, Cartography, who was hired in 2002. Here she talks about the importance of maps to our members and about the future of mapping.

What did you do when you were first hired?

I started as a cartographer, and at that time we were still making some maps by hand, scribing and gluing typeset street names down on Mylar film. I was working on the drawings, and we were transitioning into digital mapping. All the maps were being digitized and created in Adobe Illustrator.

How does cartography fit into the organizations mission?

I like to say that we inspire people to travel. Mapping is a legendary service because it’s been around for so long. Our members really respect the quality of the maps we make. And as time has gone on, we’ve tried to add information and details that you don’t necessarily find without having to go to multiple sources. So many of our maps have a lot of travel information all in one product, this is what makes them a valued member product and sets our maps apart from other products out there.

How long does it take to make a map?

A new map takes quite a while. Sometimes, it takes about eight months, because we start by building the base, but we also gather the data and all the research materials. And once you’ve done all the research, then you have to lay down the lines and type on the map and write the map copy. So it’s quite a process. Updating a map takes about two to three months.

Has the focus of our cartography changed in recent years, and if so, how?

I think it has. Today, we put a big effort into Guide and Reference maps, such as Yosemite, Indian Country, and Camping, because they are vacation-planning tools, versus our city maps. People aren’t using city maps as much because they have the data on their phones, the City series maps used to be our highest usage. When you go to your friend’s new house, you dial it in your phone and get the step-by-step directions instead of opening a map and trying to figure out where the house is. So we really have focused on our Guide maps and vacation maps that give people more than just the street pattern. Our series of Guide maps has increased in usage, so we are creating new titles for our members.

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