Design and Creative

Charting the course to market of a business which puts Gloucestershire beautifully on the map

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 06 October 2020 7:33

Charting the course to market of a business which puts Gloucestershire beautifully on the map

If anyone’s life has been a journey acquiring the right skills to start this particular business, with that person having no idea it was around the next corner, it was Dan Robinson’s.  

Which is perhaps surprising, because although he has always carried with him an entrepreneurial spirit on his travels, through a degree and a master in geology, and then working around the world, that business is specialist cartography.  

It was not his first foray into business. He had spent a period running one of Gloucestershire’s first electric bike shops in Stroud, but it was a spin-off business he developed alongside it that eventually led him to start up The Cartographic Arts.

The Cotswold Discovery Trails, the aforementioned side-line, saw him produce trail maps – two circular trails, placed in a ‘trail pack’, for visitors to the district to follow.

 

 Pictured: Dan Robinson. All pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey

“In 2011 I returned to the Cotswolds and established an electric bike shop. In 2017 I started a new business called the Cotswold Discovery Trail which brought cartography and graphic design skills into my life for the first time.  

“Bringing the Discovery Trail to life saw me criss-crossing the Cotswolds determining the routes, devising questions and sampling the beer in many a country pub.  

“I looked for a gorgeous map of the Cotswolds I could hang on my wall at home but there was nothing out there.  

“This was a huge surprise as it's a celebrated area for its natural beauty, loved by those who live here and popular with tourists from all over the World. Therefore, I decided to design my own. The result is 'The Cartographic Arts'.” 

 All pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey

What he did not see on the road ahead was how fixated he would become on the detail of the maps, from the minutia of the names of places, hills, villages, hamlets and roads, to the materials involved – the paper, the oak frames 

“I started about a year ago and have been making tweaks and adjustment ever since,” said Mr Robinson, A few people wanted me to produce this off-white antique style maps, but I have stuck to my guns because I wanted to be able to show all the detail.  

“The first one was a real effort,” he said, not least because he had to teach himself Adobe illustrator. 

“It was a real effort – three months of solid graft. I then realised it had to be on the right paper.”  

He was lucky enough to find James & Owen Ltd, Stroud’s business supplies shop on London Road, which also has an expertise in printing.  

“It has a top of the line printer,” said Mr Robinson. “I will keep them as the printers, because they are simply brilliant.”  

Having settled on the standard size – 70cm by 100cm – and the additional frame and glass customers can also choose, there was website development and the process of how best to sell them to explore.

 

All pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey

After success with initial sales, not least with a pop-up shop in Stroud, he began with conversations with shop owners across the Cotswolds, who generally wanted the maps on sale or return.  

Covid struck and he was pushed towards the website as his main shop window, which has proved a route he has now fixed on. Although he has not ruled out finding businesses on the ground in some of the county’s he is slowly but surely adding to his catalogue of counties. 

Customers can also choose to have their maps customised, dedicated to make them unique. Sales are still building, but have already come from all over, including abroad where customers have sought our mementos and reminders of where they used to live, or the places they have visited on holidays in the UK.

Pictured: Dan Robinson with his new 'helper', Ella. All pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey

When we talk the first anniversary of The Cartographic Arts is approaching, along with another milestone and he is working hard – alongside finding time for another new distraction in his life, a Jack Russell puppy called Ella.  

“I finished the Cotswold and Gloucestershire maps in early November last year. Christmas is now fast approaching again.  

“I feel like I have spent a year paying my dues. I now feel very confident there is an opportunity for it to grow and go forward.”