Ursula Hitz Interview

​Interview with Ursula Hitz about her typographic maps of London


When did you first start to be interested in maps?

I was asked by a friend to create postcard designs for his London based architectural book shop. I wanted to represent London in some way. At the time I was working on typefaces, so it occurred to me I could visualise different areas of London that have very evocative names through type. The artwork became so intricate that I realised it would look better on large scale than as a postcard design.

Did you attend a traditional art school and if so what was your experience like?

As a kid I just loved drawing and painting. I did an art foundation course in Switzerland. Afterwards I wanted to do an apprenticeship, but I couldn't find a company that offered a position, so I took an entry exam for a four-year full-time course in graphic design and passed, not realising what it entailed. In 2008 I completed a Masters in graphic design at the LCC in London.

Who are the influences in your work? Do you have any designers or artist that you admire?

One illustrator who I admire is Nate Williams. I love his illustrations, the way he does hand lettering. He uses a naive, child-like style that is very original, beautiful and poetic without being cheesy. I'm in awe of Jessica Hirsche's work. I'd describe her as a contemporary scribe. Her work draws from traditional typography, the style is playful and perfectionist. The way she brings together letterform and image is fascinating.

What is your creative process?

I only map cities I've visited. I want to get the feel of a place before deciding on lettering style. Type-style used for each city is different, so for example Rome was done imitating Roman Minuscules. Not just because of Rome's history, but also because even now many house numbers in the old town are painted or etched into the wall in Roman Minuscules. Geographically I base my maps on official council maps, travel guide and google maps. I usually start lettering from the centre outward. I always ask a local resident to review the artwork which is very helpful. 

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I'm finalising the map of Amsterdam. 

That sounds quite exciting. When do you think that will be out?

Hopefully in about three weeks.

Finally do you have a favourite object in your studio?

Yes, I have this little wood cut cow. My granny made it and it could be part of an 'Alpaufzug'. The cow wears a big bell around the neck and would be in a big crowd of other cows and animals walking up to an alp (seasonal mountain farm) in late spring to feed on grass in high-up remote areas for summer. Its a beautiful object and I love it because it reminds me of the childhood growing up on the farm.