Some maps don’t even try to hide the fact that they were made as advertisements. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, logos and brands have become one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable forms of visual communication. These maps offer colorful, illustrated excuses to show off corporate trademarks, and don’t bother with accuracy or informative detail.
In fact, Shell’s pictorial map of the American West doesn’t even show a real place at all. Instead, the classic road trip through the west is portrayed here as an adventure best undertaken with the help of Shell. Many oil companies spent considerable effort publishing road maps and motorist’s guides, in order to promote themselves as trusted partners as Americans driving culture exploded in the twentieth century. The amusing pictorial illustrations on this map document both the joys and the potential foibles of an automobile adventure through the west, with the well-equipped motorist beginning their trip, of course, from a Shell station.
This map of Acapulco does actually show the famous beach town in Mexico—if you can make it out beneath the wallpaper of logos, that is. Recreation, souvenirs, and marketing go hand-in-hand, since commercial brands are eager to associate themselves with a relaxing memory of a sunny vacation. In this map, nearly every square inch is an excuse to show off a logo, with the corporate advertisements squeezed in amongst the illustrations of pleasure-seeking tourists swimming and tanning. Unsurprisingly, the poor districts where most of the service workers in Acapculco’s resort economy live barely register on this map, beyond a few illustrated hamlets for background effect.