Map Design Style Guides

Maps can be stylish. they can also lack style. Style, as in any art form can define fashions which can change over time. Some styles become timeless and some are fleeting. But how do we define this and, more importantly, how can we capture the essence of different styles to support the work of cartographers in general? We shouldn’t need to always begin with a blank canvas and search for coherent ideas.

Based on an original idea by Daniel Huffman, the ICA Commission on Map Design is picking up the baton to develop a crowd-sourced set of cartographic style guides. Each will bring together a set of ideas, examples and links to resources that will enable the reader to learn about and implement that style more easily in their own work. Why? Because the style guides will be based on expert knowledge and prior (c)art. What has gone before that works? How do different elements hang together? What colour palettes work? What fonts are best suited? How do I render my linework in a particular style?

This goes beyond simply colouring in a basemap but, instead, builds a portfolio of materials that can be used to create coherent, well-balanced and impactful maps. Imagine a set of materials that gave you a head start in creating a map in an Art Deco style…or a neon, firefly, steampunk, celtic, pop art aesthetic etc etc. How can we take design cues from art, furniture, architecture, film and build these out to apply to cartography? We’ve already seen examples of some of these styles, some we have yet to see. Bringing them together for the benefit of the wider community is the intent, and crowd-sourcing from the experts who have already thought this through will provide a remarkable set of materials.

During the latter part of 2016, Chair Kenneth Field will be presenting these ideas at a range of conferences. More details will emerge here over time as we define how the project will take shape.