The Importance of Earnest Map Design

Eye-catching map design helps catch the viewers eye and brings emphasis to the theme of the map.
Eye-catching map design helps catch the viewer’s eye and brings emphasis to the theme of the map.

Let’s face it; a lot of the maps you see today are very plain, unattractive or even downright ugly. Intelligent symbology and design are chucked out of the window in favour of representing features as distinct as possible. The outcome of bad map design is that the map tends to look like a bunch of shapes randomly thrown together with no kind of semblance between them. This lack of sincerity in making the map translates into a map that is not easy to understand, and provides very little visual cognition of the data.

It is important to style your map elements to match the theme and purpose of the map. For example, for an application that concentrates on navigation and location should have mediums of transport such as roads and railway lines given significance over other features such as green cover, to give an example.

CloudMade map with prominent transport and navigation features.
CloudMade map with prominent transport and navigation features.

More casual, urban-themed maps for more casual applications related to cultural aspects like restaurants, landmarks, pubs and recreational areas should have less emphasis on roads and more about the buildings, landmarks and structures in the area. Every theme has aspects that need to be highlighted more than the others, but not in a way that they stand out and glare at the user.

Another aspect of good map design is the use of intuitive icons and symbols for map markers. Just entering default markers is not good enough. The size of the markers, the colours, the classification of the markers; the small things matter a lot in making the map aesthetically pleasing.

In conclusion, an earnest approach to making maps can go a long way in increasing the ease of use of a map.

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