A year of MapCarte

Wow! I did it. This time last year I was getting so disillusioned with the avalanche of bad maps and the criticism, from some, that cartographers do nothing but moan about bad maps that I decided to turn the tables. I committed to writing a daily blog about great maps. We all have our personal favourites but I wanted a broad selection that reflected a diverse view rather than it being my list. I think I just about managed it with a little help from my friends.

The idea was simply to create a repository of maps, along with short commentaries, that exhibit high quality design principles. The collection proves that design can morph and be presented in a multitude of different ways but this is precisely what makes cartography such a wonderful subject. In essence, everything is designed…it’s just that some designs end up being better than others. They may be beautiful to look at; they may support a particular function with clarity and efficiency; and they may become recognised as classics. Many maps are based strongly in science and the display of ‘truth’ so they are constructed in a particular way. But they are also an artistic endeavor and they display their wares according to many influences. As such, they pique our interest as much based on our own likes and dislikes in style. Fashion and trends play a major part in map design and we can also chart the way in which maps have changed in appearance over time. perhaps due to technological change and the instruments we use to make the map; perhaps also as our preferences change in the same way we see genres develop in both art, literature and film.

My hope for this collection is that whenever we are stuck for inspiration, or whenever someone says ‘show me a good map’ then here are 365 examples to whet the appetite. They represent as broad a definition of cartography as you could possibly see in a single collection. They’re authoritative because they’ve been compiled by cartographers. There’s probably some of your own favourites missing. Some of mine are too…but that’s not the point. It’s a collection that illustrates the diverse, rich world of cartographic design from the perspective of the professionals that inhabit that world.

A quick way to get an overview is to visit the accompanying MapCarte Pinterest Board at http://www.pinterest.com/icamapdesign/mapcarte/

So here’s a few thank yous to those who have helped…

I ended up writing all but 5 of the entries. Alex Kent wrote the other 5. I’ve also had maps suggested to me by many people including Damien Saunder, Linda Beale, Daniel Huffman, William Cartwright, Georg Gartner, Anja Hopfstock, Steve Chilton, Bernie Jenny, Manuella Schmidt, David Fairbarin, Craig Molyneux, Roger Smith, Geoff Aitken, Gennady Adrienko, Craig Williams, David Watkins, Peter Jones, Karel Kriz, Keith Clarke, Eric Steiner and Rollo Home. There are likely many others and I am sorry if I have forgotten to mention you personally but your suggestions have been invaluable. I’d also like to thank the many, many people who have sent me messages of support over the year. There’s been the odd evening where the last thing I wanted to do was write about yet another bloody map…but as the series has taken off and more people saw the posts, ‘liked’ them or retweeted them it became clear it was worthwhile. There’s little point starting something like this unless it’s going to be seen so to all of you who have taken the time to read, whether you’ve told me or not, I thank you sincerely and hope you’ve found the examples useful. It was nice that one person has commented that the effort has been ‘legendary’. If nothing else, I’ve had fewer naysayers whinge about a lack of good examples of great cartography this year…they seem to have gone back into their box. Thanks everyone!

What next…well I’m not going to start MapCarte II. Given 99% of it has been done outside work time it’s been a challenging commitment and I’m moving on to other exciting projects in 2015. It’s likely I’ll add to MapCarte as and when fascinating new maps are published that deserve mentioning so you’ll see the series continue albeit infrequently. As for a book on MapCarte – watch this space…

Happy map designing in 2015. I’m off for a lie down.