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.

British Library Maps, After-hour Tour

November 1st, 2016

The British Library in London is holding a contest to win an after-hours Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line exhibition tour. The competition is free to enter and open until the 11th of November 2016 (midnight).

Competition Entry Form

The library sent me some additional information:

Five lucky winners and their guests will enjoy a tour with the exhibition curator and a special show and tell of rare maps from our collection, including cartographic gems like the personal maps of the kings and queens of England, the earliest maps of London and New York, and secret spy maps from the 17th century. Winners can quiz our curator on the stories behind our maps and hear how different items are selected for our exhibitions.

If I were anywhere close to this exhibit I would definitely want to enter this. Good luck to those who do!

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration