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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.

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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.

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