Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Notes on a Map

November 3rd, 2016

I like to keep a Google Doc full of inspiration maps for whatever projects come up. Here’s one that’s in my inspiration doc and a few notes on techniques that are de rigueur in journalism mapping. 




Overall, this map by The Washington Post is clean and crisp. The hillshade is very subtle but not non-existent. We have an area indicated by dark gray shading and labeled straight on the map with a dark gray label. This is a good reminder that sometimes a map key isn’t needed if you can label the item(s) directly on the map.

They’re using a thin white halo around the place names in the main map (note halos are not present around “SYRIA” in the inset though I’m not sure if that was intentional). All caps are used for country names in bold black. We have bold black mixed case for major cities and regular black mixed case for minor cities. Blue italic serif font is used for the water feature labels. This constitutes a nicely executed, normal, typeface hierarchy.

The main two things that I really want to point out here, though, are the arrows and the arrow labels. The arrows indicate movement by means of gradual increases in arrow thickness, arcs, and gray drop shadows. Each arrow label matches the color of the arrow that it labels. This “pattern” of using arrows in this manner is something I’ve only recently taken note of, whether this means they are a newish development in map styling or not, I think they’re very effective.


One Coment

  • L. Holcombe says on: November 6, 2016 at 6:51 pm


    I would probably get in trouble at my web development job if I made something like this, because the color contrast of the yellow text (and possibly the green text) is too low. The most common disability among web users is poor eyesight, and things like color contrast and font size can really impact a site’s accessibility. The WCAG actually has minimum standards of color contrast, and we measure contrast to make sure we’re compliant. I had never heard of this before starting at a company that is very strict about accessibility. Is this even a thing in the world of cartography? If not, should it?

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration