Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Map Display Location, Location, Location

March 16th, 2011

We should be thinking not just about the effectiveness of our cartographic products in terms of what they look like and how well they transfer information, but also in how often we get them in front of the right readers and where.

We just got back from a short trip to Breckenridge where my kids and husband went skiing*. They told me that the lifts have maps that show up in front of you while you ride the lift, attached to the safety bar. What a great idea! This way you don’t have people trying to get their paper maps our of their ski coats, accidentally dropping them on the skiers below, or trying to hold them with freezing hands. You simply have the slope map right in front of you at the exact time when you need it!

Have you put some thought into how you can get your latest mapping effort in front of the most readers in the most convenient way?

*It seems I’ve had to explain this a million times lately, but I’ll give it one more go: I skied as a kid quite a bit and wound up hating it due to a long series of minor disasters that finally built up into an admonition that I will never ski again. So as an adult I took up snowboarding and, after two years of trying and never getting the hang of it, I finally gave up. The final blow was, well…a blow to the head, and I have never snowboarded again. It really isn’t worth paying $100 for a lift ticket to slowly glide down on my edge, on a green, all day. So instead of skiing, I read Donald Norman’s new book Living With Complexity and Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. Both great reads!



  • Adam says on: March 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm


    Usually, map consumption happens only after an individual decides they need to know where to go. Putting a map in front of someone that might not be looking for one is a great way to encourage exploration. The trick is to find ways to give a map to someone BEFORE they decide they need one. Of course, having a captive audience strapped into a chair always helps!

    It’s also an interesting way to think about the audience as two groups: the group that is looking for a route to a specific destination, and the group that is looking for the entire range of possible destinations. Put a map in front of the latter group at the right moment and they will pour over every detail.

    (as an aside, last week “Thinking With Type” finally made it to the top of my reading pile on my desk and I’m really looking forward to digging in!)

  • Gretchen says on: March 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm


    Yes, a skier on a lift is truly a “captive” audience! (Uh-oh, let’s hope they don’t start posting advertisements on the safety bars too.) Thank you for posting your thoughts.

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration