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I have to say, I think the typography / lettering / label placement of the NatGeo map is significantly better than the Imus map. It's easier for me to see what's what, and it looks less cluttered somehow, probably helped by having freer choice of orientation. But I won't deny that there's more information in the Imus map.

As I read I jumped ahead to look at the pictures and was all impressed about the attention to detail on the map on the right - look at how "Kettering" is curved so it fits. The labels are clear and not fuzzy.

I was impressed with his map.

And then to my surprise I discover that his map is the one on the left!

Maybe in a large printed version his is better? I don't know. All I can tell from the photos is that the computer generated one is better.

The label for "Kettering" in National Geographic's map is distorted (to "fit"), set in smaller type, crosses two road paths, and eliminates more smaller city labels than Imus'.

The irony of this is that these are all very common constraints to graph layout algorithms --- simple type, minimized crossings, label size and placement --- and the label you called out as "better" pessimizes them.

Add to that the fact that Imus' map subtly indicates Kettering's position in a population center (the yellow blob) and gives topographic and foresting information for the area with a clear contrast between the western and eastern sides.

Be careful. The Imus map is deceptively detailed (again: forestation levels), and is not shown in its best light in a PNG clip next to a simplified National Geographic map. You're right; the Imus map looks muddy and harder to read. That's because it's doing more, and is thus not as well suited to a laptop screen (or a clip in a web page) as National Geographic's.

Natgeo maps are largely hand drawn on a computer. Labels are manually placed. There are a few industry rated label placement engines (Maplex), but for published maps, manual placement is needed.

I believe this might be due to sharpening issues and noise and fuzziness due to compression in the photograph/scanning of the Imus map. When scanning/photographing text one must sharpen more aggressively than usual, and also use higher quality/lossless compression.

It seems the author of those digital pictures is not skilled enough as to faithfully reproduce paper documents digitally.

Seems a little unfair to judge the piece of work on a screen when it is probably better viewed "in person". Also a fairer test might be to try and use the map for its intended use rather than criticizing specific attributes directly (if you see what I mean). Anyway, monumental effort, 2 solid years work. I hope its a success for the guy.

I agree that the National Geographic map looks better superficially. To my eye the labelling on the Imu map is more functional. You are drawn to larger or more important places first, and other labels are less intrusive. The approach adopted by National Geographic is much less effective in this respect.

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