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The World's Newest, Most Gloriously Designed Maps (atlasobscura.com)
68 points by yaseen-rob 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments



These look more like infographics than something a cartographer would design. I don't know much about maps, but I have an intuition of the difference. Cartography in my view is a serious study of 2D space, using mathematics and generally providing a solution to a precise problem (various projections address different aspects such as equal areas, etc.). Infographic is an elementary mapping of geographic data on a map which is more than often only useful in marketing-type materials. Every time I see an infographic, I want to skip to the next page.

Quoting the article, "Cartographers, rejoice". I also despise this kind of writing style.


I'm not sure about the specific definition of maps vs. infographics and if something can be both. However, regarding the National Park maps do seem to be mostly the latter, while aesthetically pleasing, the lack of topographic information renders them largely useless when actually exploring the park.


These maps are designed to be informational for casual tourists driving between landmarks and taking short hikes on accessible and well marked trails, not for serious hikers going off trail into the forest or whatever. The parks should also have more serious topo maps available.

For example, for the park whose map was shown in the article, USGS offers: https://store.usgs.gov/product/518738 https://store.usgs.gov/product/518520 https://store.usgs.gov/product/518727 https://store.usgs.gov/product/518422 etc.


This was my first impression. I think your comment is constructive and wish people who feel different would explain why.


The article is about an atlas being released by the North American Cartographic Information Society.

So I find it ridiculous for someone who says "I don't know much about maps, but I have an intuition" to complain that it's somehow not real cartography or something.

I mean, everyone is welcome to their opinion, but there's a big difference between saying you don't like a map, vs attacking the professional legitimacy of a map.

And a little bit of Internet research on the names in the article shows, for example:

- John Nelson has a masters in geoscience and works for Esri.

- Tom Patterson holds an MA in geography and is a cartographer for the National Park Service.

- Daniel Coe is a GIS cartographer for the Washington Geological Survey.

That took me like 5 minutes to find out. Intuition is fine, but please follow it up with some actual work. These people are as real as it gets for cartographers.


That doesn't actually engage with the criticism, it just appeals to authority (especially dubious since he's making an aesthetic criticism). I personally have no idea if there is a cartography authority that is worth listening to. Likewise, if you told me that such-and-such comic was adored by some members of the Manga Appreciation Society of North America, I have no idea if that's meaningful.

Furthermore, the fact that they are practitioners doesn't actually mean they represent an expert consensus. Suppose I told you that there is a European Cartographic Information Society and they think the North American Cartographic Information Society has completely sold out to clickbaiting, forsaking the intellectual rigor of traditional cartography to create infotainment maps with mass appeal. (These kinds of disputes between authorities occur all the time, even in academic fields, e.g., analytic vs. continental philosophy.) Isn't that scenario completely compatible with the evidence you've given?


I just checked out their website: http://atlasofdesign.org/three

This is a link to version 3 and they are planning to publish version 4 of the "Atlas for Design".

Despite of the credibility of "American Cartographic Information Society", the product they've conceived belongs on a coffee table.


I didn't downvote the comment in question, but to me it seemed blatantly curmudgeonly.

I checked out fermienrico's posting history, and one thing that jumped out was a submission of a "design thinking" video with the video's title replaced with "Design thinking is bullshit."

So I think that bears out the impression that fermienrico just doesn't like (graphic) design, or at least aspects of it, and, rather than seeing it as offering a constructive critique of the article, I would be inclined to conclude that his/her comment was indulging an entirely negative personal dislike of anything prettified or involving skills other than hard sciences.

Of course cartography is more than geometry, it has always been about graphic communication. Map projections are just the part of cartography that is conducive to mathematical analysis. Any mapmaker is an information designer, if not, occasionally, an artist.

It is not a wise move to attempt to restrict human activities to things that are objectively calculable, or to attempt to redefine the word cartography to narrow it's meaning in such a way that all skill and aesthetic judgement is (somehow) eliminated. That is not the reality of mapmaking.


That was pretty enlightening and I found it amusing that people can paint a character from one piece of evidence, however far fetched their conclusions might be. This is why I keep anonymity on the internet.

If you meet me in person, you would come to the complete opposite conclusion - I thrive in design, arts, and creative/craftsmen subject matter.

I don't have a problem with creative/design things. I just want it to be good. In the words of Paul Rand - "Don't try to be creative or original. Try to be good." In the case of Cartography, in my view Cartographers just don't use aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics or in your words "prettify" things. Their purpose is to communicate geographical data to their audience in the most precise unambiguous way possible. Have you ever looked at an FAA Section chart?

I urge you to dig further into my comment history, I hope you like it!


Cartography is more than just land, it's about effectively communicating information that's inherently geographic. That can be cultural borders, political borders, shopping mall density, migration routes, ect.

Infographics are traditionally combining graphs with graphics, as in graphic arts. They show data using plots and graphs, while also augmenting it artwork so as to make it more engaging. The key here is that the graphics don't contribute to the informational data directly, they only aim to make the graph more engaging, less boring to look at.

These maps however use visuals to enhance the underlying data itself, so as to better express the actual message.


You've given a justification for an arbitrary amount of dumbing down (of the sort I hear from science journalists who resort to clickbait in order to "make the message more engaging"). The original criticism was that this isn't serious cartography for adults, not that cartoons aren't appropriate for children.


Not minimizing the horror - but the _What if it was your city_ maps drew circles that were somehow quite a bit smaller than I imagined.

Maybe it's precisely because it's so horrific that it loomed larger than life in my head, who knows.


In cities, a lot of people live in small circles.




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