Archive for October, 2017

Map Design Basics*

It isn’t April Fools’ Day but this is one of my old workshop hand-outs that came across my desk again today. Spruced up and embellished, it makes some great points about how to be a good cartographer. Or, erm, it makes some points anyway. 😉


  • Neat-line boxes must surround every element. Think maximum containment and minimal flow.
  • Ignore figure-ground. Land can be white and water can be white. Why use more ink than you have to?
  • You don’t need to bother with labeling features but if you do, try under the line, on the point, and on all parts of multi-part polygons.
  • Definitely include a large row of clashing logos.
  • Legends don’t need to explain everything, let the map reader guess a little.
  • Spell-check is overrated.
  • Legends with underscores, cryptic numbers, and things like “z5” make you look smart.
  • Orient your maps in highly unusual ways.
  • Make sure map readers understand each and every disclaimer, including those that have never been tested in court, before they are allowed to even see the map.
  • Talented map designers only need about 30 minutes to turn out a good map.
  • It’s important to make the map for yourself not for the audience.



No Comments