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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.

See the source image
Google Map’s version of New York City.

Another take on New York City. Credit: Martin Haake


  1. lbaya wrote:

    I never actually noticed that maps are designed, even the ones with heavy design. Its nice to realize that a lot in this world was created by a graphic designer!

    Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  2. daguero wrote:

    It’s interesting to see all of the ways that a map can be designed! Some seem more like art than actual design, but they still have useful information. I think it’s important to have variety in the way we depict our surroundings to inspire people to travel around and explore more.

    Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  3. eander6 wrote:

    The bottom map that you displayed in your post reminds me of a theme park like Busch Gardens. The idea of sprinkling colorful figures and objects throughout any map to define locations is a fun way to know where you are. I think the GPS in our phones should have little cartoon figures guiding us along to create a delightful experience. It is fascinating to know that such a simple and intricate design of a map was made by designers. Is there anything we haven’t designed?

    Saturday, March 2, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  4. sgaytan wrote:

    I’ve always noticed how the design of maps influence me and my experience in using them. This is the reason I don’t use Maps on my iphone, I prefer Waze 10x more. The design and functionality succeeds by miles. Using fun illustrations is not only more interesting but we are able to connect with it more.

    Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink