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Often times when we make maps it is based on our subjective interpretation of what is aesthetically pleasing. I would like if people posted examples of beautiful maps, displaying any phenomena in any manner.

Below I have posted one of my favorite maps. This is an example of a value-by-alpha map recently asked about on the forum, and the picture is taken from the GeoVista website (which has a ton of cool maps and tools to make them.)

alt text

citation for the maps makers

Geovisual analytics to enhance spatial scan statistic interpretation: an analysis of U.S. cervical cancer mortality Jin Chen , Robert E Roth , Adam T Naito , Eugene J Lengerich and Alan M MacEachren International Journal of Health Geographics 2008, 7:57


While I did not stipulate this when I originally asked the question, I think it would be best for the cultivation of knowledge if people would elaborate on why the particular maps they cite are beautiful. I would appreciate any new responses to include this, and if the other authors are still around to update their examples for why they think the maps they mentioned are beautiful.

And I will start with my example, the reason I believe I think the cited value-by-alpha map is beautiful is that it creates a very simple, but obvious and striking visual hierarchy with which to interpret the standardized mortality ratio's. This is in particular useful combined with the very "noisy" standardized mortality ratio's, and the typically very noisy clusters of abnormally high rates produced by the SatScan clustering technique. One can even clearly see very small clusters around Chicago and Philadelphia.

I also appreciate other supplemental elements of the map that make it easy of the eyes. Such as the black background, the heavier white outline for around the states and the white outline for the states (that is blended the same as the attribute values). Maps with many polygons can particularly be distracting if one does not take care when plotting the polygon outlines.

Also the legend is particularly well created, and effectively demonstrates the concept (although it certainly isn't a typical legend, so took some original creative thought).

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Whats your thoughts on having a repeat question but with 'badly designed' in mind. - I have seen plenty of old local government web mapping sites that are very painful to understand (even as a GIS professional) I think it would be good to show examples of bad design, with detailed justification, but at the same time, is it ok to name & shame people? –  Simon Oct 31 '10 at 1:18
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@Simon, I think suggestions of badly designed maps could be just as informative. If its public I have no problem shaming anyone, and it would have informational value to our community. Like you said the poster should add reasoning as to why it is poor. –  Andy W Oct 31 '10 at 1:58
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@Simon, don't forget about cartotalk.com which has a forum dedicated to people posting maps for people to critique. –  mkennedy Dec 8 '10 at 23:30

48 Answers 48

This map shows how political boundaries would be located if the supercontinent Pangea still existed. Should be shown in every geography/geology course.

enter image description here

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Do you have a link to the original figure? –  Dan C Sep 20 '13 at 19:46
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I found the map in this compilation: twistedsifter.com/2013/08/… A version with higher resolution can be found here: eatrio.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/10.-pangea_politik.jpg –  Gideon Sep 20 '13 at 19:59

Not sure if this applies but check out the ones at http://www.davidrumsey.com/. Older maps georef'd and overlayed on google maps... lots on here but I like the Yosemite on http://rumsey.geogarage.com/maps/g2738110hires1.html

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This is one of the maps from ER Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. What I like best here are the vertical labels for mountain peaks and places. It is a perfect fit for Japans' tategaki (columns going from top to bottom) writing direction.

Tufte Tourist Map

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I really like the 1:25'000 maps of Switzerland:

1:25'000 map of Switzerland

They manage to convey a huge amount of information while not looking overfilled. Also, I like the combination of the shading (which immediately gives you a good clue about the shape of the terrain) and the elevation lines (which you can use to determine the exact elevation at any point on the map).

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I just wrote a long message to the USGS about their new "National Map" 7.5' 1:24000 topo quads. They are truly horrible compared to their earlier products. This map is an excellent example of the art of cartography. I'm going to lift it and pass it along to USGS. I don't expect any change from them, they have slashed costs and now depend on machines to generate their imagery. I still felt like I needed to let them know that people notice. Thanks again for this excellent example! –  Bob Denny Sep 10 at 15:26

Nelson Minar has created a vector tile map of all the rivers in the United States that I think is pretty amazing.

enter image description here

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There's some nice shading on this oneThere's some nice shading on this one -

link

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The shadings are indicating the bathymetry. The points indicate areas where the company has data. I'm not sure about the orange overlay - perhaps just for visual appeal. The target users do not need any more info about the map, they are only interested in the highlighted points and already understand what they mean. I just haven't seen a representation of bathymetry in this way before and thought it looked intersting. –  Ian May 24 '12 at 1:38

How about these ones from Prometheus? Can't seem to find the tools in Arc to recreate them though - maybe they'll be in 10.2.Prometheus globePrometheus mound

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maps should be able to "communicate" informations to their viewers. sci-fi CG globes as the above although spectacular they fail in that aspect. -1 (great movie btw) –  nickves Oct 23 '12 at 17:58

In french : L'âge d'or des cartes marines, Quand l’Europe découvrait le monde (trans google : The Golden Age charts, When Europe discovered the world), from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

All images : http://expositions.bnf.fr/marine/icono/index.htm

An example :

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I saw fellow GIS.SE user Michael Markieta's piece on airline flight paths on the BBC News website today. Very nice presentation. What tools were used to create these images?

Global Flight Paths North America Flight Paths

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I gave an example of a similar map in this thread for facebook connections, gis.stackexchange.com/a/4437/751. All it is is black background, and lines drawn with either heavy transparency or a color ramp so higher weights are drawn with a brighter color (lines for worldwide maps are typically great circle lines). Various tutorials exist for ArcMap, the R statistical program, and QGIS that I have seen. –  Andy W May 30 '13 at 12:09
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The BBC is a bit late to this party. Micheal posted that back in 2011 spatialanalysis.ca/2011/…. I used the same database in QGIS around the same time anitagraser.com/2011/08/20/visualizing-global-connections –  underdark May 30 '13 at 12:18

I'd like to cite here the color version of the french "carte d'état-major" (1825-1866).

Source info

Examples :

Perpignan Dunkirk

These maps are available on the IGN interactive mapping portal (here centered on Saint-Malo).

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I recently found some beautiful maps in my local map store in Cologne. These are satellite images that have been edited. In my opinion, they offer a great balance of pure picture and annotations and you get a good impression of elevation. Maybe you have to see them in reality, but here are some examples. I have no connection to the distributor of these maps, I just love them! enter image description here

Zoomed in:

enter image description here

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ESRI recently published the following map due to its EsriUC Map Gallery and Software Applications Fair. I will be following this event and I am very excited for further maps. enter image description here

The map shows the estimated annual energy consumption of New York City. I regret that the quality is low. Still it is a great map in my opinion.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/esrigis (February 12, 2013)

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Some of the work of Pieter van den Keere is quite impressive. See this example Leo Belgicus from 1617.

enter image description here

I think that what makes some of his maps particularly beautiful, is the ability of combining the spatial information with caricature or heraldic, mixing cartography with illustration.

Here another example by Gezeichnet von W. Trier.

enter image description here

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I've been a great fan of the thematic maps by French cartographer Philippe Rekacewicz. I especially like his hand drawn sketches and the maps derived from that. He captures well the emotional aspect that sometimes lies in the topic.

Three frontiers of Europe

fatalities of immigrants at the Schengen-border

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There's this mural in the Tokyo Sky Tree, it's a map of Tokyo which is partly animated using LCD screens, it's rather accurate while depicting the city in a fun way with hints about what the different areas are known for.

Detailed pictures and video here: http://www.team-lab.net/en/all/pickup/skytreemural.html

Tokyo Sky Tree mural

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you may think what you like about Gall Peters Projection but he releases an Atlas every year which is hand coloured :) pic here can't post any yet. http://www.amazon.de/Peters-Weltatlas-wahren-Proportionen-Erde/dp/3833155590

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Just got this book in the mail this week. it has some truly beautiful maps in it.enter image description here

This is one of my favoritesenter image description here

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Micro Level Informations for Watershed programms in the Part Of India that I think is pretty amazing

Map

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I wouldn't say that it is a good map, since at the given resolution it is pretty much unreadable, and secondly, I have no idea what area of the world it is representing. At the minimum it requires an Index Map, or a Lat-long grid. And Thirdly, and most importantly, it just isn't aesthetically outstanding in any way. –  Devdatta Tengshe Feb 14 at 6:49
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This is not my requirement. It is the requirement of the question, which asks for What makes a Map beautiful, and why the particular maps that is cite is beautiful. –  Devdatta Tengshe Feb 14 at 7:25

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