British cartographer Christopher Wesson was born in Coventry on 11th March 1981. He never knew what he wanted to be when growing up, he enjoyed sport and – as reasonably as a schoolboy can – enjoyed his academic work too but nothing really stood out as a future profession. Nonetheless an interest in the sea led him to Southampton in 1999 to start a BSc degree in Oceanography with Physics. Christopher doesn’t know where his fondness for the sea and the coast comes from having grown up in the Midlands with the nearest beach to his childhood home being 92 miles away at Heacham in Norfolk*, a county that he has never visited, but he has however always held a geographical interest and his original application for the University of Southampton was actually for Oceanography with Physical Geography, an application that was to be declined due to a poor grade in Geography at A-Level.
Before moving to Southampton, Christopher had graduated from King Henry VIII School, Coventry, where he made many lifelong friends and eventually accumulated the equivalent of 470 modern day UCAS points**. He secured short-term employment at both Capita and Arup, where he gained valuable experience in mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, before going on to further education. At Arup he was involved in some large projects including platform renovation at London Victoria Railway Station and runway surface checks for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. During his brief time there he was fascinated by the Øresund Link project and when given the graduates’ challenge of railway re-routing he scored an almost perfect answer depicting the route almost exactly as it had been built. Despite a verbal offer of employment upon graduation, Christopher decided that his future lie elsewhere.
At university, Christopher enjoyed studying at the National Oceanography Centre, a top-five-worldwide centre of excellence, and decided to stay on at the university for another year to gain some knowledge of business. Despite having no previous accountancy qualifications unlike the majority of other applicants, he managed to convince the School of Management to let him onto the MSc Accounting and Management Science degree, a unique course within the school that combines the modules of the BSc Accounting and Finance curriculum with those of the AMBA-accredited MBA programme.
It was an advertisement in the Southampton Daily Echo that led Christopher into Cartography. He found the job appealing as it offered the prospect of continuing his scientific skills but adding to it his passion for art and for geography. After a brief spell as a trainee, he became a fully-fledged cartographer and he continued to build his resume through his work on different Ordnance Survey products and projects. But Chris is more than just a cartographer; he’s a friend and companion to many, a designer, an author of several articles and papers, a blogger to his peers, a facebooker to his friends, and an enthusiast of gadgetry and all things tech. He did have a spell as a gamer too, spending far too many evenings on Call of Duty, but has more recently favoured more constructive past times such as exercise, e.g. swimming, and learning new skills, e.g. I tried learning Russian.
Christopher is currently a Cartographic Design Consultant at Ordnance Survey with a keen interest in partnering modern technologies with Ordnance Survey’s long tradition of excellence in cartographic design. His career highlights to date have been his offsite training at the Royal School of Military Survey, his involvement in the creation and evolution of Ordnance Survey’s OS VectorMap Local and OS VectorMap District products, creating a new common Ordnance Survey map style for vector and raster-from-vector products; and leading the way in the company’s semi-automation of cartography making the most of the advances in GIS and web-based mapping.
Within a larger Product Development and Engineering department, Christopher works as part of a small team performing a key role for the organisation, as the authority for cartographic design and development and engaging with internal and external audiences to promote and communicate the value of cartography. Despite a largely scientific background, cartography has seen Christopher’s interest in the artistic element of his work steadily grow. He very much views cartographic design as a specialist form of graphic design, or just design, and sees himself very much as a designer. But alongside that he uses his scientific approach to ensure Ordnance Survey pursues not just improvements in design but also cartographic development.
Christopher would like to give a special mention to Charley and Paul, both of whom make his job so much easier.
**Based on A-level results alone; not music, dance, personal effectiveness or horse-riding!
A study of Tropical Instability Waves and the Pacific Cold Tongue using data from the TRMM Microwave Imager. BSc Dissertation 2002, School of Ocean & Earth Science, University of Southampton.
Cartographic Design, Quality and Consultancy at Ordnance Survey. The Cartographic Journal, 44 (3), pp. 209-215.
Deriving Products from a Multi Resolution Database using Automated Generalisation at Ordnance Survey. The Proceedings of the 26th International Cartographic Conference, August 2013.
Forecasting in the Air Travel Industry after September 11, the Iraq War & SARS. MSc Dissertation 2003, School of Management, University of Southampton.
Ordnance Survey’s cartographic design principles: An approach to promoting good map design. The Proceedings of the 26th International Cartographic Conference, August 2013, and on the Ordnance Survey website.