Sunday, October 2, 2011

Royal Air Maroc: Systemwide Route Map, April 1976

An astonishing vintage route map, a gem of the tremendous collection of the website Timetable Images. Its issue date of April 1976 could be guessed at from the styling alone: a shag-carpet, VW-bus interior striping of the continents that follows neither national boundaries nor time zones, but zigzags to its own groovy pattern. The coastlines of the landmass are geometrically simplified, squared-off while still showing smaller juts such as Crimea and Crete, Cornwall and Cape Cod.

This quadrangularity contrasts to the jet-black route lines. Frictionless, looping ribbons convex proudly from their true navigational path, making for easy reading on the map. Northern European Routes are pulled far out into the Atlantic; Southern European lines ply semicircles over the Sahara. Tripoli and Le Caire are linked by a fanciful arc which touches mainland Greece; Nouakchott, due north of Dakar, is connected to the Senegalese capital by a wide "C" shape.

The labels are in quintessential Microgramma typeface, both on the map and at what stands in for a legend: the spiraling emblem at the bottom left, featuring the Francophone names of the nations which Royal Air Maroc serves. Such a badge seems to be an award to mark this fantastic réseau as a classic achievement of route map graphics.

All this can be admired before even considering the routes themselves, of which there are several treasures: Lille is the sixth metropolitain city served; JFK is reached from both Casablanca and Tangier, before swooping north to terminate at Mirabel; the airline stretches as far east as Koweit.

As can be seen from previous posts, RAM has expanded rapidly across Africa in recent years, but it seems to have yet matched the graphic achievements of amazing cartograph.

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