Bringing a story to life with beautiful maps

By April 8th 2016

Unless you’re lucky enough to be a cartographer for a living, the closest many people will have come to a map may well be in the Geography classroom several years ago or in the car when looking at a roadmap or glancing at the satnav.  Not surprisingly most of us probably think of maps as being essentially functional tools, designed to orientate and help navigate the user from A to B.  However, there is more to maps than this, as some of these beautiful examples show.

Geographically accurate maps

Geographically accurate maps are still the most commonly used means of vizualising geographic data; they are too often associated with the road atlas or perhaps with Ordnance Survey maps used for weekend walks.  The geographic map will tend to represent map features in their real world location, perhaps using a coordinate system to locate place names and landmarks.  However, geographically accurate maps can still be beautiful as the following example illustrates:

Beautiful detailed mapping

This map shows a route from Italy to Phoenicia which is generalised but the place names have been accurately placed on the map.

Educational maps

Educational maps, found in school text books linked to a syllabus are often themed according to the specific topic.  Such maps are a useful tool to supplement text and to enhance the understanding of a topic. The addition of a map into a textbook must enhance the text description and aid learning. The visual impact of the information portrayed makes data more easily understood and interpreted.

Maps to tell a news story

This map shows the geographic landscape of the Cuban Missile Crisis, using illustration to draw in the reader and make the subject more interesting.

Historical Maps

Historical maps also provide the opportunity for the cartographer to be creative in their approach and have been used heavily over the years to convey a particular story or theme in history.  Again the historical map can benefit from the use of illustrations or additional graphics to convey a message.

Map colours to set mood

This map uses dramatic colours and strong labelling to illustrate the topic.

Editorial Maps

Editorial maps, such as those used in magazines and newspapers are often commissioned to enhance and bring to life a lead article. In their simplest form, in-flight magazines use flight route maps as part of their editorial content, however the editorial map can also be used to great effect to convey a story.

Contrasting colours in map to disseminate information

This map uses strong and contrasting colours to disseminate information that would be difficult to describe in text alone.

These examples hopefully serve to show how there are beautiful maps being used to convey information on many different topics and for varied audiences.

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