Map Evolution

by Ben Sheesley on January 15, 2009


Recently, we took on a nice little print mapping project for a few hotels located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. The project involved making a one-sided, page-sized map showing hotel locations and the locations of a few points of interest in the area. The idea was that hotel guests could use the map to find their way around downtown as well as get a sense for where they were staying in relation to the university, interstates, airport, etc. The map was to be printed in grayscale, plus 3 spot colors (red, yellow, and blue).

Before starting out, we discussed the possibility of sharing the project with those interested in seeing all the stuff that goes into designing a map like this. The map design process is notoriously difficult to articulate and we’re keen on the idea of making pieces of it more transparent, where possible. One option was to screen capture the hotel map as it appeared in the production software at regular time intervals from blank page to finished product. So, here is a sequence of 116 images, originally captured at 10-minute intervals, compiled to show the evolution of the hotel map in just under 2 minutes. Clearly, not all maps are made in the same way, but this should expose some of the kinds of design decisions made in a relatively simple project like this.

Watch the larger version of Map Evolution (990 x 766px) — best for seeing change in map details.

There are 6 comments in this article:

  1. January 15, 2009Nathan says:

    Very nice work. We always see the end product and miss out on the design process a lot of the time, which is more interesting a lot of the time – to me at least.

  2. March 30, 2009benjamin says:

    Wow, really comprehensive visualization of the creative / analytical process of creating a map.

  3. June 23, 2009Where are all the dollar$ going? at SweetMaps says:

    […] various techniques for communicating data on a static map.  Axis Maps also posted a super video  (with a beautiful musical accompaniment composed by one of the map-makers) showing 106 10-minute […]

  4. November 22, 2009kuesta says:

    please tell me which software did you use for production?

  5. November 23, 2009ben says:

    Hi kuesta,
    The map was designed in Adobe Illustrator, and the movie was produced with iMovie.

  6. September 9, 2010Map Evolution 2 | Axis Maps Blog says:

    […] of the map. When it was finished I sequenced them together to form a simple movie, as I did for the evolution of a map of downtown Madison, WI. Each screen represents about 10-15 minutes of real production work. While this PDF shows the final […]