Infographic Design vs. GISer Map Design

Mike Werth’s infographic of the Best Beer in America reminds us that it is possible to break away from more of the usual and create some really interesting maps that engage, tell stories, and persuade.

Contrast that map with this one. Now, I do realize that this one deals with beer tax, which means it should look a bit more sober, but it is a good illustration of the difference between a much more typical GIS output versus a well designed infographic.

Let’s emphasize that the map directly above is a fine map from a GIS design standpoint. In fact, it’s much better than what the typical GIS analyst, even with a few years of experience can put together. But wow, what a difference some attention to typography, wavy borders, drop shadows, unique legends, and some subject-appropriate background graphics can make/

  1. #1 by Dusty Robinson on April 12, 2012 - 7:14 am

    So… how do you get from Map B to Map A? What software would help do this easily? Or is it not that easy?

  2. #2 by @StarkAnn on April 12, 2012 - 7:29 am

    Infographic Design vs. GISer Map Design

  3. #3 by Gretchen on April 12, 2012 - 8:04 am

    I imagine most would head straight to Illustrator to get the results in Map A. You may not even have to start in a mapping program at all, if you’ve got the U.S. map already.

  4. #4 by Jon Yungkans on April 12, 2012 - 8:54 am

    I know we’re talking here about two different maps, concepts and design philosophies. Frankly, though, neither map is a clear winner. Map A is too amateurish-looking, Map B too sober, almost to sterility. Context, of course, is an important and inescapable factor–for whom is this map really being made, for which function, where is it going to appear? At the same time, and after much experience in publishing and design, I can’t escape the mindset that a piece being presented, whether a map, magazine or website, has to look inviting for people to spend any time with it. Neither of these maps really attracts me. Perhaps a third option midway in concept and execution to Maps A and B might be a more attractive option from a user standpoint.

  5. #5 by Keith on April 12, 2012 - 10:27 am

    Far from amateurish, the first map is a great example of how a more creative, aesthetically-pleasing design can pull you in to investigate more closely. And, that’s exactly what we want to do as cartographers – capture and keep our viewers attention so that we can communicate the message of the map.

    I actually think both maps may do this effectively. But, as Gretchen points out, breaking away from more of the usual can often capture your audience’s attention more effectively.

    I guess we do have to be sober some of the time, though. :)

  6. #6 by Jon Yungkans on April 12, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    Keith, we’ll have to agree to disagree. To my eye, the first map is cartoonish, almost a caricature. No self-respecting design person in his or her right mind would submit it to a client. No one in any of the GIS classes I’ve taken has produced anything remotely like it and the majority of projects I’ve seen displayed a the ESRI International Conference have been considerably more professional. It’s not aesthetically pleasing or creative. It is a mess.

  7. #7 by Kris Peterson (@mapbiquity) (@mapbiquity) on April 15, 2012 - 11:30 am

    Infographic Design vs. GISer Map Design

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