Information Graphics

A Map That Anyone Can Read

What do cartographers do for fun? They make typographic maps.

At Axis Maps in Hewitt, Texas, what started out as a clever little typographic map party announcement for a gathering of geographers in Boston grew into a full-blown typographic map of the city. Andy Woodruff, one of the principals of Axis Maps, says that he started the project because he was intrigued with the idea of expanding the style of the party invitation into a full city map of Boston. His off-hours project caught the attention of his Axis cohorts, Ben Sheesley and Mark Harrower, who decided to make both a color and black-and-white typographic map of Chicago. The maps occupied them off and on for nearly two years.

“There was nothing automatic about making these maps, unless you count copying and pasting,” says Woodruff on the Axis Maps blog. “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.”

Once they finished the maps, they decided to turn them into posters, offered for sale at $30 each. The cartographers at Axis claim that they had so much fun that they are now planning typographic maps of San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C.