Style Guide Submission template

Thank you for your interest in helping the ICA Commission on Map Design assemble its style guides! Our goal is to provide a series of “quick-start kits” that provide inspiration and examples for mapmakers looking to reference an existing aesthetic.

We need your help finding the materials from which to build these guides! If you have a style you’d like to propose, please submit the following details to A sample guide is provided here so you can see the sort of details we’re trying to collate.

Style Title
A clear, simple title will help people find what they’re looking for.

Style Introduction
A succinct statement of under 50 words that points out the key characteristics of the style.

Provide 3 to 5 adjectives which describe the style.

List 2 or 3 artists, cartographers, or graphic designers whose work demonstrates the style; this will help users of the style guide know where to search for further inspiration.

Map Examples
Attach (or provide links) to 2 or 3 existing maps which exemplify the style. If attaching files, provide full credit information.

Other Inspirations
Attach (or provide links) to 2 or 3 examples of other graphic art (posters, postcards, album covers, book jackets, etc.) which exemplify the style. If attaching files, provide full credit information.

List 3 typefaces which fit with the style. You might consider the typography used in the Map Examples & Other Inspirations sections as a starting point here. At least one of the typefaces should be freely available. Ideally, the three typefaces will show some range, rather than being very similar to each other.

Provide 3 colour palettes, each with 5 colors, that fit with the style. Again, these can be borrowed from the Map Examples & Other Inspirations sections.

The legacy of MapCarte

When we embarked upon our MapCarte series last year we wanted to inspire people with examples of beautiful, creative and well designed cartography. Showing people examples of quality was an attempt to counter the tsunami of poor mapping that passes across our digital devices daily. There’s no reason that a general public fascinated with maps can be expected to sift the quality from the quantity. MapCarte was our way of curating a set of maps of all genres that demonstrate the very best in map design. Curated by cartographers for everyone. While we cannot claim credit for a swing in the public desire for better mapping we’d like to think we’ve played a small part and some of the previous offenders are buying into the shift (e.g. here, here, and here for example). It’s what the Commission is designed to do…to promote quality in cartography and be an evangelist for work that showcases the very best in the art and science of map design.

The last year or so have seen the publication of a number of excellent books that perform a similar task. These include Jerry Brotton’s ‘Great Maps‘, Daniel Huffman and Sam Mathews’ ‘Atlas of Design Vol 2‘, Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes’ ‘Maps: Their untold stories‘ and The Times History of the World in Maps. These all contribute to the canon of work that showcases, describes and promotes cartographic design. Commission Chair Kenneth Field contributed to the Atlas of Design with an introductory essay and to The Times’ publication with a discussion of Google Maps. Ken is also involved in his day job at Esri helping a wider team to curate an online gallery of maps that demonstrate the cartographic potential for people using Esri’s ArcGIS platform. The site’s called Maps We Love and while you may not love them all, it performs a parallel purpose to MapCarte. Indeed, the idea of Maps We Love was inspired by what we did with MapCarte more generally.

The trend of publishing collections or compilations of examples of good quality map design has also been implemented by many other mapping organisations and publishers continue their fascination with great cartography. There’s a new book on the market that continues this trend…’MAP‘ by Phaidon Press (published 28th September).

MAPKen was asked to contribute to this edited collection of 300 maps and this became a great opportunity to use the words we penned for MapCarte in a different way. Ken wrote descriptions for 23 of the maps alongside a huge team of contributors. Edited by John Hessler from the Map Division, U.S. Library of Congress, the maps are given space to shine in the 12″ by 10″ hardback book. Heavy duty paper literally adds weight to the tome and the text is kept to a minimum by simply identifying key characteristics or aspects of importance. Curated content is the key to this and other publications alike. It’s authoritative and provides a terrific window onto cartography and maps more generally. It also includes a timeline of the history of cartography, a glossary of useful cartographic terms and links to further reading.

Much like MapCarte the collection is eclectic and it’s fascinating to see there’s probably only an overlap of 100 or so maps between our own collection and the maps featured in MAP. This is to be expected…any collection of maps chosen by one group of people will include examples not selected by others. That’s part of the beauty and breadth of cartography. On reflection, yes, there’s probably some from MAP that we might have put in MapCarte but if you join the dots in all of the above collections there’s commonality as well as divergence. The simple fact is as a group of academics, practitioners and map experts we’re finally taking what we know to the general public. Taking responsibility to share some of what we know as cartographic experts is vital to informing people about map design. It’s also important that this drives their yearning to become smarter map-makers. Knowing a little of the cartographic design process allows people to better understand what they require for their own work, and how to discern quality from the plethora of rather uninspiring (or plain wrong) work out in our world.

It’s been tremendous to see how MapCarte has both inspired and sat alongside other similar projects. This can only support the dissemination of better mapping and help people to demand more of their maps. We’ll continue to publish infrequent MapCarte entries as and when the whim takes us…and as we look toward the culmination of our first 4 years as an ICA Commission we look forward to our second term.

Survey into colour design – participation request

Our colleagues at the University of Zurich, led by Professor Sara Fabrikant, are undertaking a fascinating study into the use of colours for displaying complex data – an issue that resonates with many of the basic tenets of map design.

If subscribers to the ICA Map Design Commission could spend a few minutes (15-20) by way of participating in a survey this would greatly help the research endeavor.

You can find the survey here.


Atlas of Design call for maps


The call for map submissions has just been announced for the second volume of the Atlas of Design. An initiative by the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), the atlas acts as a showcase of beautifully designed maps alongside commentaries that explain a little of why the map is as it is and how and why it works so well both graphically and as an information product. In many ways the atlas was an inspiration for our picto-bite approach MapCarte series but crucially both are curated by cartographic experts. This provides a look into the world of mapping from authoritative sources. We need more of this!

Edited by Tim Wallace and Daniel Huffman, the first volume (published in 2012) presented 27 beautiful maps and even though beauty is so often in the eye of the beholder there can be no argument that the selection represents some of the finest contemporary mapping of the last few years. The 2014 volume looks set to improve on the first (no pressure there!) but this is a community effort so we’d encourage those of you who produce stunning maps to consider contributing.

In a world where quantity is currently out-pacing quality, the Atlas of Design is a much-needed antidote to much of what we see. It acts to inspire people towards a greater appreciation of well-crafted maps and how they can be far more powerful when properly thought-through, designed and produced. This is more than just ‘pretty maps’ and a gallery of aesthetically pleasing maps; this is about showing the value of the art and science of cartography; the expertise that a cartographer can bring to bear; and a return to high quality over mass production.

Submit your maps here. Go on…you know you want to!

New Commission web site

The new International Cartographic Association (ICA) Commission on Map Design was approved at the International Cartographic Conference in Paris July 2011. It is designed to foster discussion, exchange of ideas and the development and spread of the principles and practice of high quality, effective cartographic and infographic design.

Good design and better mapping is core to effective spatial communication and the Commission is focused on engaging international experts from a wide range of fields to provide a body of knowledge that guides cartography as it tackles the challenges brought about by GIS, the internet, cloud-based computing, pervasive web-based map services and the mashup culture. Such changes bring with them new map-makers who have not been formally trained in cartography yet still require knowledge of the basic tenets of good cartographic design; and new principles that are required for emerging cartographic landscapes (e.g. temporal, animated, interactive and 3D). Additionally, emerging production and display environments require new approaches to effectively implement well-understood design techniques alongside tackling the challenges and harnessing the opportunities brought about by new technologies.

The web site of the Commission is now live…if you’re reading this then you’ve already found it! Welcome…and please participate by joining using the subscribe panel on the right.