Typographic map posters

Today we’re pleased to show off a pet project that’s been occupying us off and on for nearly two years. After some emotional separation issues, we are declaring finished a few typographic map posters—one of Boston, and color and black and white flavors of Chicago. Everything in these maps is made of type.

Chicago typographic map

Chicago typographic map

Boston typographic map

These look good hanging on a wall, so of course prints are available. Check out the page we’ve set up with some more detailed images and links to get copies for yourself.

I began this project with the Boston map, thinking it would be fun to expand the style of my small party announcement map to a full city. The idea caught on here at Axis Maps and soon Mark and Ben had parallel effort underway for a map of Chicago, a city to which several Axis Mappers have some affinity. Ben took the lead on that map, and some twenty months later we both added our respective finishing touches and reluctantly let go.

There was nothing automated about making these maps, unless you count copying and pasting. Everything was laid out manually, from tracing streets over an OpenStreetMap image, to nudging curved water text, to selectively erasing text to create a woven street pattern. The Boston and Chicago maps differ in style, but the end result is similar: from a distance it can appear as an accurate reference map, and as you get closer you notice the thousands of words it comprises.

This has been a fun, if long, process, and we hope other people can enjoy these maps as much as we have. There are only two cities for now, but look for more in the future! Our list right now is San Francisco, New York (Manhattan), and Washington, D.C.

99 thoughts on “Typographic map posters”

  1. I second the Houston request. I’ve been looking for an antique map, but this is really more my style.

  2. Great work!
    Can’t wait to see how it looks like with London! I’ll buy one for all my friends on the very day you launch the London version!
    Is there a way to stay in touch and be updated about your coming creations?
    cheers, Caroline

  3. These are amazing. Are you working on other cities? if so which ones? can you please do Philadelphia.

  4. Fantastic concept, 1 vote from me for Sydney (the one Down Under, not the one in Canada) if you are looking for other cities to tackle.

  5. These are gorgeous!!! Would you ever consider doing single color prints like the B&W in different colors? Like the various colors of the ORK maps? I love the simplicity of the B&W but it would be nice to see it a little more lively with other single colors. Amazing work!

  6. Sorry to slack on answering any of the questions asked in comments here; we continue to be a bit overwhelmed by all the positive response!

    When we’re not busy with our usual custom interactive map work (i.e. during those dark cartography nights), we’ve got our hands full with the next set of cities (San Francisco, Manhattan, Washington DC), but all the requests are duly noted for the future, of course. It’s great to see everybody’s enthusiasm for their hometown.

    As for the few other more print-related questions, we’ve just stepped into this so it may be some time before we venture into fancier varieties and such, but we’re definitely considering the various possibilities.

    Thanks again everyone!

  7. I vote for both San Francisco and New York.
    As a French reader, I would love to see such a map for Paris.

  8. I LOVE the Chicago map! Wow…really impressive, and thanks for the labor of love :)

    Agreed–the CTA lines are trickier to do, but I liked the example here of colored backgrounds for where the streets and the L overlap.

  9. These maps are amazing and I would buy one of my home city (Indianapolis) in an instant if it were available.

    However, it seems like these maps are very labor intensive and mostly manual. Seems like the time it would take to put one together from scratch, could be more effectively used creating a program that would do a large majority of the heavy lifting. Obviously you’d still have to go back and make tweaks and small adjustments that a program couldn’t figure out, but then you’d be using your valuable time making higher level adjustments which would ultimately increase the number of maps you could get done in a given period of time. (There are a lot of smart programmers out there, that would love to be a part of something as cool as this. You just gotta find them.)

    Either way, great job!

  10. Just bought a Boston one—23″x 34″—truly an amazing piece of work. Currently living in D.C. and would love to know when that one is coming out—I got some great ideas on spreading the word about these maps; email me sometime.

    They should be in every home!

  11. +5 San Diego

    I’ve already spoken to several people and they are in for a San Diego poster as well……

  12. Any chance a Canadian city (VANCOUVER) could be put on the consideration list? These are absolutely beautiful!

  13. Aly – We always hesitate to give an ETA, but we’re getting closer and closer on the Washington map. We’re probably counting in weeks at this point. Perhaps we’ll post some teaser images soon.

  14. I just want to add my two cents about Toronto! I know at least four or five others who would snatch up the Toronto poster in a heartbeat.

  15. I have been looking at all the requests for maps of various cities and feel a little like a “me too” with my request; however, I think that my request will strike a note with a group of people who all spent some time (based upon your work and your bios) in the city of Madison, WI. With the isthmus and the capital square, I think that Madison would make a great typographic map. Very creative intersection of cartography and typology!

  16. These maps are fantastic. I am going to order a Chicago one right now!

    As for the CTA issue, when the train line merges with the actual street, what if instead of writing “CTA CTA…” you just change the street name to the cta colors? That way, there will no longer be a space issue and one would know that the cta continues in that direction? Just a suggestion!

    Anyway these maps rock. good job.

  17. We just the SF map in the mail and it is just lovely. It is a a graduation gift for our daughter that is graduating from college with her GIS. Nice quality paper and colors. It looks fantastic in the black frame I got for it. She is going to love it. Thanks for all your hard work.

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