It’s not often that a simple paper US wall map gets national attention. The omnipresent designs, with their colored state borders, cities and highways have been pinned or rolled on elementary school walls for the entire lives of those who inhabit the States today. Yet the map we bring you today has been garnering much praise for its well thought out design choices, winning the coveted “Best in Show” from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society and thus dethroning giant institutions like National Geographic, Central Intelligence Agency Cartography Center, and the U.S. Census Bureau who have won the award consistently in the past.
What makes this map so special? For one, unlike most modern maps which are designed using an algorithm to place text, often cleaned up later by low payed foreign workers, this map was created by just one man. Working essentially on his own in his Eugene, Oregon farm house, cartographer David Imus spent two years and around 6000 hours creating his masterpiece. He spent much of his time carefully arranging the maps typography, obsessing over font types, letter thickness and kerning, insuring that the map was both highly readable and information rich.
One of the most significant differences between the maps that have come before and Imus’ design, is his choice to use thick green lines to delineate states, rather than bold colors. In doing this, he emphasizes geographic features rather than political ones, allowing us to more clearly see that a river defines the boundary between Kentucky and Indiana in the left map below. Unlike most US maps which use a stark white background, Imus further emphasized natural geography by using varying shades of green to clearly show the countries varied terrain.
Imus’ map on the left, uses thick green lines to delineate state borders, allowing a clearer picture of what actually dictates the placement of the state line.
In Imus’ map on the left, each airport has it’s three letter abbreviation and local features like universities and attractions are shown. The red line marked FY is a ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon.
Some would argue that, with all the touch screen maps at our fingertips today, paper maps are un-important and out of date. But what all of those digital maps lack, is the ability to really stand back and take in the big picture, observing from a distance how states connect, how terrain changes across the country and how that terrain effects the layout of things. Without that big picture, a true understanding of geography and the placement of things is difficult to grasp. You can pick up your own beautiful 50 x 35 inch copy of Imus’ THE ESSENTIAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA for as little as $12.95 at imusgeographics.com.
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