Color Patterns Used on the Kilts of Scottish Clans

The map below is actually a postcard (author/date unknown) sent from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It displays a selection of Scottish tartans, an important identifying symbol for clans.

Is there a spatiality to these tartans? Yes, probably: notice how the southern clans are much more likely to incorporate blues and greens, while the northerners seem to prefer red (a color the iconoclasts on Lewis and Harris island both forgo). Also, it appears that the most complicated patterns are clustered in the northeast.

Wisconsin-based cartographer/graphic designer, Martin Elmer at Map hugger was not satisfied with the fact that the kilts are neatly arranged off to the side, and viewers are unable to discern the all-important spatial distribution of the tartan designs. Hence, he popped open his favorite image manipulation program and spliced each tartan back onto its actual location on the map. Here’s the result:

via big think


  1. My grandmother’s last name was Smillie. I can’t find out what part of Scotland she came over to the US from. Anyone know where this surname is prominent and which clan ???

  2. My Scottish Ancestors were Bain, Bane, McBain from Argyle. I have more English than Scottish, but still very proud of this heritage!

  3. My Grandparents cam over early 1900’s. Robert Bain; McKay Clan- Argyll and Sutherland Heights and his wife Christen Bain. Robert was the Most High Templar before coming to the US. He also owned a ship making Company in Glasgow.
    I’ve always wondered what our families tartan would be.
    Chris Antonille


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