A brief history of The Melbourne Map project

In 1985 I returned from backpacking around Europe, full of enthusiasm and bright ideas about the world.  On my travels I had seen and collected a few city maps.  The maps that I liked most were ones with illustrations of buildings – these made it easier as a tourist to navigate around a city.

I searched for an illustrated map of Melbourne and the only one I could find was a magnificent etching of the city by AC Cooke and Samuel Calvert in published in 1880!

1880 Melbourne by AC Cooke & Samuel Calvert

In my quest to learn more about business I enrolled in a course at Monash University called “The Entrepreneur & New Venture Initiation Workshop”    I applied the idea of producing an illustrated map of Melbourne to the principles of building a business plan. I loved this course and became so obsessed with  with the Melbourne Map idea that I went in search of an artist.  I met with a few illustrators however as luck would have it I had a chance meeting with Deborah Young after I saw an invitation she had illustrated for a friend’s birthday party

Deborah was as enthusiastic about Melbourne as I so we teamed up and over the next two years we worked at nights and on weekends in a converted garage at the back of my mum’s house.  Dianne Clarke housed us, fed us and encouraged us every step of the way.  Without mum’s support the project quite literally would never have happened.

Melinda Clarke & Deborah Young (1990)

Photo taken in the Studio (garage) at the back of Di’s house

We would take photos on the SLR camera my brother had given me (the old 35mm kind), developed the film at considerable expense and Deborah would use them as reference for the illustration. Over 7,500 photos were taken for the project, with around 2,000 from hot air balloon flights over the city.

After two years I realised the project was going to take forever to finish so a $50,000 overdraft was secured with the ANZ bank (at 22.5% interest). This enabled Deborah to leave her full time job and work full time on the map, completing the original line drawing in 1990.

By then over $80,000 had been spent on the project and looking back it was blind faith and a whole lot of encouragement from friends and family that kept us going as we took the map to market.

A Black & White limited edition was printed on beautiful rag paper and we began the challenging task of letting the world know the map was available for sale.  After an interview on radio 3AW and 3LO I soon learned the power of media.

1990 Melbourne Map Limited Edition

Enough sales were made to meet the overdraft interest payments but it was obvious that people wanted a colour version.

New illustrators, Heather Potter and Mark Jackson came on board and updated the line drawing – removing the bi-plane and banner and making a few building changes. The line drawing was then screen printed same size as the original (an edition of 25 were printed by Larry Rawlings) and then over a period of 6 months Heather and Mark hand coloured one of these prints.

On Friday 7 February, 1992 The Age newspaper did a story on the map and printed a greyscale copy on the inside of the front cover of their newspaper. I happily agreed to this reprint on the proviso that they included our address, phone number and price of the map.   Suddenly the cloud of the overdraft shifted as Melburnians posted us cheques for $39.95 and we filled those orders with glee.  Finally after 7 years of planning and execution there was validation that Melburnians loved this drawing as much as we did.

A jigsaw was produced in 1993 and was equally as popular.  We self published and printed in Melbourne.   6,000 families experienced the joy of putting the 1,000 pieces together.

There are so many stories in-between, I feel like I could write a book, and I just may one day.

The Melbourne Map was produced in different forms until about 1997 when I moved onto other ventures.

But here I am again 26 years later, willing and able to do it all over again.