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June 15, 2011

Here be Dragons: Modern Mapmaking

Most of the time, when you go to a website’s Location or Contact page, they’ll have a map next to the address. These days the trend seems to be to have a cropped Google map of their location, with a link to it on Google maps. And certainly there’s nothing wrong with that – but usually when I get around to designing that page for a client, I end up illustrating it myself.

I love drawing these maps. I wish I could tell you why they make me so happy – except, I guess, for the same reason any aspect of design makes me happy. It’s informative and attractive at the same time. Google’s maps are definitely informative, and truly elegant in their own way, but they’re also very much Google-branded. When I custom-illustrate a map for a client, the end result is useful and informative, and the design is consistent: consistent with the client’s branding, but also consistent with the document or website that’s presenting the map. It all ties together, and becomes a visually unified whole.

But enough philosophy. Let’s look at some maps. Most of these are from work with fathead, but some are from my own personal stash. That’s how much I geek out about maps, I have my own map-stash.

I was lucky with I Dream of Falafel; we started working with them just as they were getting off the ground, so we got to handle all of their branding and design. Over time, their map has expanded from one, to two, to three locations in downtown Chicago. I can’t tell you how sad I was to crop out that gorgeous Eisenhower Expressway loop when they moved to three locations.

This one for the Chicago Waldorf School blends seamlessly into the rest of their site design.

These two for Epic Burger (which unfortunately aren’t being used on their site anymore) played with negative space and the quirky shapes of their logo.

While the maps for the two locations of Enaz are softer and more delicate, and play off the colors and shapes of their shop’s site background:

We’ve done some fairly sober presentation maps for Omega & Associates:

And some more interesting ones for airport terminal presentations for SSP America:

I was especially pleased with this interactive one for San Diego’s Burger Lounge:

And with the elegant cohesiveness of these ones for the multiple site locations of the Bartolotta Catering Company. These ones link to Google maps, but also include a printable pdf version for prospective clients to download.

It’s not enough that I’m the go-to cartographer here in the office; I actually made this one in my spare time for my older brother, when he was working at a hostel on Mount Desert Island:

And this one for a local Flamenco studio:

And I’m in the process of working on these ones for my neighborhood’s farmers market:

I’m sure some of my cartography-related geekery comes from bookish childhood hours spent poring over maps of Middle Earth and Moominland and the 100 Acre Wood. Now if only I could find someone who’d let me sneak in some vicious sea monsters. Every single one of these maps is missing some sea monsters.