Posts Tagged ‘Maps – Design’

To understand map design, and how maps work, it is useful to see how map design concepts play out on a real map.

One of the significant updates to the 2nd edition of Making Maps was the inclusion of a map of the 1986 trans-global flight of the experimental aircraft called Voyager. This map, originally designed and created by David DiBiase and I back in 1987 for David Woodward’s map design course (and in the University of Wisconsin Cartographic Lab), is repeated thirteen times in seven of the chapters, annotated to show how the concepts and ideas in these chapters play out on the map.

The repeatedly annotated Voyager map serves as an example of map design in practice, but also a guide to “reading” a map from the perspective of map design.

Martin Dodge suggested the annotated maps be available together, for instructional purposes. A good idea! So here they are. Each individual map on this page is a 800k PNG file (click for full size).

A PDF file (8.8mb) with all thirteen higher resolution TIFF images is available here.

The Voyager map project was quite a bit of fun to create back in the day. It won a map design award, was published in the book about the Voyager flight, and printed on paper as part of a promotion for the Waukesha County, Wisconsin Airport. I cannot imagine anything much more exciting than that.


The second map in the series prefaces the initial chapter in Making Maps 2nd edition, and poses a series of questions that will be addressed in future chapters (and annotated Voyager maps):

Chapter 2, What’s Your Map For?, sets the context of the map (and of its re-creation for the book) and how such context shapes the design of the map:

Chapter 6, The Big Picture of Map Design, repeats the Voyager map five times, focusing on the key map design concepts covered in the chapter. This is where the map flips orientation south up (a controversial design choice, according to some reviewers: good! Think about why such a choice is controversial, and if it should be [or ask your students to do so]):

South is now up (so the story reads from left to right):

Annotations about map pieces including title, scale, explanatory text, legend, directional indicator, border, sources, credits, and insets & locator maps:

Annotations about visual arrangement including path, visual center, balance, symmetry, sight-lines, and grids:

Annotations about graphical excellence, based on Edward Tufte’s ideas, including complexity, detail, design variation & data variation, context, revision, non-data ink, data-ink ratio, explanatory text, editing, chartjunk & map crap, redundancy, and multivariate data:

Chapter 7, The Inner Workings of Map Design, reveals the Voyager map with no visual differences (a confusing mess of lines and type):

The map with visual differences is then annotated, with regard to key methods for establishing visual differences, including detail, edges, texture, layering, shape, size, closure, proximity, simplicity, direction, familiarity, and color:

Chapter 8, Map Generalization and Classification, annotates the Voyager map in terms of the generalization concepts of selection, dimension change, simplification, smoothing, displacement, and enhancement:

Chapter 9, Map Symbolization, annotates the map in terms of the visual variables: shape, size, color hue, color value, color intensity, and texture:

Chapter 10, Words on Maps, annotates the Voyager map with regards to typographic variables including typeface, type form, type weight, and type size:

I have a few ideas for additional annotated Voyager maps (such as a full color map) which I hope to cobble together in the future. If you have any other ideas for variations that might be useful or interesting, let me know.

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