Type Only Cartography

As mentioned in our issue a big field of afflatus comes from the history of cartography plus contemporary developments in digital cartography in the field of typography.

So let us go one step further and contemplate about the combination of cartography and typography respectively their impact in the context of visualizations.


At first one popular sample in the case of word maps. Therefore an old map from 1935 of South America stands for this kind of maps, where only words in a symbol meaning creates the whole map.

In detail we see, that the hand-lettered words and their hierarchy follow characteristic rules of typography. So country names come along with capital letters, city names with mixed caps and topographical elements are shaped in a sharp way by an italic text.


Further informations on typographic guidelines in cartography can be found in the book Making Maps and in this blog article. Here an exemplification how these rules are used in different atlases.



At a second step we show some latest randoms of visualizations following these fundamental rules. Meanwhile since 1935 info-graphics consisting of word clouds have received a mainstream popularity.



More sophisticated approaches in the direction of illustrations or concrete poetry let hope for a qualitative work beside the quantitative misdirection. Nonetheless these formations must be considered as artistic which results in a neglect of legibility in the in the sense of valuable typography.




Apart from this topic a variant attempt is worth mentioning – the typometry. In the course of this a type becomes a set of symbols for producing maps. Typometry has it origins in 1773/74 as a variant of the lead set.


In the meantime there are digitalized descendants in form of typometric fonts available. For example the font FF Routes.



Our challenge in this blog is now, how we can apply time-honored rules of typography in cartography to our not only geographical visualizations to generate a more sophisticated visuality beside simply word clouds.




DIY Cartography

Typographic Maps

Typo Maps