There are very few maps in the world that might be described as perfect but the work of Swisstopo has been consistently at the pinnacle of topographic map design for decades. Their maps illustrate scientific accuracy and precision of construction but it might be argued that many topographic maps by many other mapping agencies can claim this also. What sets Swisstopo apart is their ability to create a beautiful map by carefully considering colour, balance, contrast, heirarchy, labelling density and positioning. These are all core to the map design process but achieving success with such consistency is almost magical.
The new range of 1:25,000 scale maps by Swisstopo, of which the Hauenstein sheet is one, shows that they have not lost their eye. Building upon the legacy of elegant maps that have gone before, this updated design shows clear lineage with contemporary flair. The lines are cleaner, the marks almost more deliberate.The text is so well placed it looks as if it sits perfectly at home amongst the other map features. The density of information is almost unbelievable and to achieve such a well balanced product without recourse to more omission and simplification is astonishing. The classic Imhof-inspired hillshade lends a clarity and brightness to the topography and gives it the unmistakable look of a Swiss topographic map.
The fact that Switzerland’s topography is spectacular of course lends itself to inspire cartographers to make a beautiful map but it’s another thing altogether to achieve it. These 1:25,000 sheets have been modernised but still deliver. They remain iconic and engaging and represent the very best of modern topographic mapping.