They bring order to the chaos of cities, and let you venture into the unknown. They encourage exploration, and make anything seem possible. We love maps and the way they capture our imagination. They are masterful works of art that can be both beautiful and mysterious. They are powerful storytelling platforms that can invoke feelings of curiosity, dreaming and anticipation. They bring order to the chaos of cities, and let you venture into the unknown, they encourage exploration and make anything seem possible.

Self proclaimed ‘Doodler’, Peter Deligdisch, so beautifully describes the process that map illustrators go through to create maps in his video ‘fantasy map drawing’. “As you raise the mountains, push down the valleys, as you pour water across the land and watch it settle into rivers and lakes and watch it makes it way to the sea. As you plant forests. As you choose the best locations and build the cities from the ground up. As you determine the natural boundaries. As you do all the things you do to draw a map. A sense of satisfaction and fascination comes over you…”

They are human stories

Maps are much more than a 2D depiction of the world that helps you get from place A to B. Maps synthesise large amounts of data, bring together human stories and everyday personal moments layered upon the environment around them, compiling a rich narrative.

British illustrator Jenni Sparks spent months researching San Francisco before creating her beautiful hand drawn maps. She immersed herself in the culture, meeting locals, walking the streets. She was able to pick up the intricate details that are part of the tapestry that is San Francisco, and skillfully integrate these into her maps.

 

They are adaptable

You can strip maps bare to keep the focus on specific elements. You can change their shape, size and proportions according to the subject matter. They can be altered to reflect different points of view, perspectives, experiences and places.

This map of Bristol from Fullermaps.com celebrates the diverse and colourful personality of the city.

They are art

Nigel Peake’s whimsical maps are a combination of poetic artistry and architectural geometric patterns. His works have a heavy emphasis on line and texture. And while they are not going to take you on a journey as such, their simplicity is where the creativity lies.

They are imaginative

Abraham Ortelius’ ‘Map of Iceland’, which is undoubtedly one of the most decorative maps of all time, depicts mountains, fjords and volcanoes, legendary and mythical sea monsters and over 200 place names. You could sit and ponder the detail in this map for a long time and still want more.

They make sense of things

Maps allow us to make sense out of data, give it shape and form. This visual map of the internet by Opte.org gives perspective to something so intangible. For something so complex, this visualization map tells a story of how immense the world wide web is.

They bring fiction to life

Maps bring fictional tales and games to life, giving them a presence and tangibility.

Maps add an extra dimension to storytelling. The spectacular wonder of the world captured in fine cartographic lines is epic. It is about discovery, exploration, and opening your mind to the unfamiliar.

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Written by Zoe Manderson