As this year marks the 50th anniversary of Lovell Johns, we thought it would be a great idea for you to get to know more about the staff, and their background. Therefore, we have decided to run a series of team stories, which will help you to better understand the history of Lovell Johns, and the individuals that make the company what it is.
I’ve always had an interest in maps, especially the classic Ordnance Survey maps and the way they represent the British countryside. So when I spotted a higher education course on ‘Cartography’ at Oxford Brookes University, I thought ‘Great….the outdoors and lots of field trips!’. I applied to mix the course with computing. This was with half an eye on more realistic vocation, as I had had some previous programming experience on my Dad’s Amstrad 6128. I had also started a GCSE course on computing at the same time as my A-Levels, however I was unable to complete the course when all the computers at my sixth form college were stolen and not replaced (I found out later the culprits were people I knew!).
Studying for a degree mixing computing and cartography lent itself well to the new GIS (Geographic Information Systems) modules on offer. GIS, as with the internet, was very much in its infancy then so it was a good time to study the technology and it’s potential. Typically the cartography modules involved a very short amount of time outdoors and only one field trip, but after 3 years I completed my dissertation on ‘Extraterrestrial Cartography’ and gained my overall degree.
Soon after, I was offered a project role using GIS for a local authority software supplier in Bristol. This gave me valuable experience with some of the early Esri software.
I then decided to move back to Oxford to be with my better-half, and successfully applied for a GIS Technician role at Lovell Johns. The company had started using GIS to manage its cartographic databases, and I was involved in some of the first projects where GIS files were a deliverable. One of the early projects was the creation of the first detailed GIS database of canals, locks, bridges and moorings for British Waterways.
Since then, I’ve seen GIS evolve from being a simple data capture and data management tool, to being a key technology for decision making and communication. In 2004, I got involved in our first GIS contract for the European Commission. The resulting data was used to aid key funding decisions across the EU.
GIS and the delivery of maps on the internet have also become much more integrated, and as a result I now manage both GIS and web projects for the company. I have also seen the rise in the availability of royalty-free GIS data and robust Open Source software, which has enabled many mapping solutions to be delivered within modest budgets.
The team’s time can be spent on varying projects for a wide-variety of private and public sector clients. Projects can include developing interactive mapping websites, consulting on GIS implementations, spatial analysis and reporting, or sourcing and preparing map data for cartographic publications. I also get involved in some of our product creation challenges, such as how to put a world map on a beach ball or how to make a map glow in the dark. My two children also love maps, and we often get their views on our new kid’s products.
In our 50th year of business, it’s clear that spatial data and mapping is as important as ever. With the explosion in the number of mobile tablets and their ever-increasing functionality, ‘location’ has become increasingly embroiled into our everyday lives ….and that’s good news for @mapmakers!