Map Design

Map Design

5610.1 - Fashionable maps are coming to town. Beep-beep.

Wednesday, July 5
2:50 PM - 3:10 PM
Location: Coolidge

“There's a brand new dance but I don't know its name
That people from bad homes do again and again
It's big and it's bland full of tension and fear
They do it over there but we don't do it here” David Bowie “Fashion”, 1980

Modern maps often challenge our stylistic tastes as they express new and alternative forms. It’s punk cartography and it has parallels in other design-led fields. Maps pique interest using eye-catching styles as they buck trends in cartographic fashion. This paper explores the notion of cartographic style and shifts in fashion and presents new work by the ICA Map Design Commission to recognize and support a modern cartographic wardrobe.

Maps are increasingly ephemera. Whereupon once, they took months or even years to survey, design and produce they are now made or updated rapidly, beyond the speed of thought in many cases. For all the cartographic detritus we see, there are many maps that burn brightly for a short while yet also fade rapidly. This paper asserts that the cause of this is not just our dwindling attention spans and increased expectations, but that it has to do with style and fashion: what’s hot and what’s not, much of which seems to work outside of what we might consider cartographic norms but mapping in this context requires a consideration of fashion.

Style used to be thought of as belonging to a particular look and feel, perhaps that of a National Mapping Agency or a news organisation. These days it has more to do with an individual and the search for a cartographic approach that riffs off well-known and loved imagery as a means of rapidly piquing interest. Here, we review some of this in our own work and that of others where the style of the map has been designed to evoke a particular reaction beyond the map theme itself. We explore this notion of cartographic style and seek out how fashions are established and how they change. What is the equivalent of the pair of flares hidden away in the cupboard? What should we be looking forward to for next ‘season’? How does the cartographic objective become a hostage to the need to be seen to be ‘in fashion’?

As a framework for recognizing and supporting modern stylistic treatments in cartography, we introduce work that the ICA Map Design Commission has begun to develop a series of style guides. These are intended to provide a modern cartographic wardrobe for the map-maker searching for a particular style. They deal with motifs, moods and voices to connect typographic elements and colour choice as well as composition and layout used to dress a map stylishly. The intent is to draw upon the vast amount of work individuals have already undertaken in creating their own maps and harness that as a style guide to give others a head-start. The style guides provide the cartographic community with a resource based on the excellence and best practice developed by the community and for the community.

Fashionable maps are coming to town. Fashion! Beep-beep.

Kenneth Field

Resident Cartographer
Esri Inc

Dr Kenneth Field is a self-confessed cartonerd. After 20 years in UK academia he now works at Esri in cartographic research and development. He undertakes research, writes, teaches and blogs about map design, is Past-Editor of The Cartographic Journal, co-founder of the Journal of Maps and is on the advisory board of the International Journal of Cartography. He is Chair of the ICA Map Design Commission, Fellow of the British Cartographic Society and Royal Geographic Society and a Chartered Geographer (GIS). He has won numerous awards for mapping and for cartographic pedagogy. He tweets as @kennethfield and blogs at


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Alzbeta Brychtova

UX Designer
University of Zurich / Lufthansa Systems

Alžběta Brychtová is currently an UX designer and cartographic visualization expert in Lufthansa Systems since 2016. Before, she was a postdoctoral researcher with the Geographic Information Visualization and Analysis group of the GIScience Center of the University of Zurich.
She completed her PhD in Geoinformatics and Cartography at the Department of Geoinformatics, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc in Czech Republic. During her PhD studies she was a visiting researcher at the ETH Zurich, University of Zurich (multiple times), and University of St Andrews (UK). Her primary research interests are in cognitive and usability issues in geovisualizations.


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5610.1 - Fashionable maps are coming to town. Beep-beep.

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