Maps and the Geospatial Revolution

Text on Maps


While it’s a bit outside of the scope of this introductory class, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t at least briefly describe the role of labeling and type design on maps. Cartographers often spend a huge amount of effort just trying to decide where to locate labels on a map layout (the map itself and its marginalia). Normally there are too many labels to show in too small of a space, so we need to design a clear visual hierarchy by varying the characteristics of text to emphasize the important bits and de-emphasize the less important bits. Fortunately for you, there are some easy rules to follow – the graphic here shows the priority you should place on label location.

described above. From best location to worst: top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left, top center, bottom center
Figure 5.15: Priority of Label Location.
Credit: A. Robinson

And when you’re faced with the daunting task of choosing among zillions of fonts for the text on your map, Ben Sheesley from Axis Maps has created a great little tool called TypeBrewer (in the spirit of ColorBrewer). Avoid Comic Sans and Papyrus (the default font choice for restaurant menus around the world, unfortunately), please.