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Map Design

Map design influences the way in which we explore and navigate the world. Maps are a form of experiential design, which deals with the way in which a location is through graphic design, as well as a form of an infographic. This type of design integrates cartography, illustration, and graphic design into providing us with comprehensive wayfinding material.

From digital GPS maps to an infographic map to an illustrated, broad map, maps come in a range of presentations and approaches, each one serving a different purpose. We use such designs to either to get from Point A to Point B or to explore and learn about the surroundings of a location. Maps give life to a place, and have the potential to express more than just location names, roads, and basic landmarks. By working with color choice and illustrative elements, a map designer can illuminate a specific location, drawing out elements through their expression of the place. Map designs can summarize, drawing out the important elements of the destination and highlighting the best attributes. It can also be hyper-specific, showing each and every street, natural area, and river. In addition, the designs can be zoomed out to portray the whole world, or zoomed in to view a single country, region, state, or city. Map designs also utilize color to symbolize different areas, types of roads, landmarks, and locations, as well as to give an overall aesthetic and user experience in the eyes of the audience. Illustrative icons are often used to symbolize trees, mountains, or special interests within the area, such as a building, food, or animal.

Maps come in a range of design styles, but ultimately, they have the power to define a place. Through effective and well-thought design choices and illustrative components, a strong map design can both teach and inspire someone about any given location.

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Google Map’s version of New York City.

Another take on New York City. Credit: Martin Haake