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70+ Epic Map Design

Ah Maps. Without them, we would be utterly lost. These days with GPS the actual paper maps have been less and less needed, however, they are still beautiful and inspirational to look at! I love looking at maps and studying geography (real or imaginary) there is just something about other lands on the earth and their geographic positions and layouts that are fascinating. As designers we can chart our own course and make our own maps of perhaps real life areas or map out our imaginations in a paper map! But how do you make a map? CARTOGRAPHY! wtf is that? well…

What Is Cartography?

Lets go ask Mr Wikipedia to drop a knowledge bomb on us – this is what it has to say about Cartography.

Cartography (from Greek Χάρτης, chartes or charax = sheet of papyrus (paper) and graphein = to write) is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.

The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:

  • Set the map’s agenda and select traits of the object to be mapped. This is the concern of map editing. Traits may be physical, such as roads or land masses, or may be abstract, such as toponyms or political boundaries.
  • Represent the terrain of the mapped object on flat media. This is the concern of map projections.
  • Eliminate characteristics of the mapped object that are not relevant to the map’s purpose. This is the concern of generalization.
  • Reduce the complexity of the characteristics that will be mapped. This is also the concern of generalization.
  • Orchestrate the elements of the map to best convey its message to its audience. This is the concern of map design.

Modern cartography is closely integrated with geographic information science (GIScience) and constitutes many theoretical and practical foundations of geographic information systems.

The earliest known map is a matter of some debate, both because the definition of “map” is not sharp and because some artifacts speculated to be maps might actually be something else. A wall painting, which may depict the ancient Anatolian city of Çatalhöyük (previously known as Catal Huyuk or Çatal Hüyük), has been dated to the late 7th millennium BCE. Other known maps of the ancient world include the Minoan “House of the Admiral” wall painting from c. 1600 BCE, showing a seaside community in an oblique perspective and an engraved map of the holy Babylonian city of Nippur, from the Kassite period (14th – 12th centuries BCE). The oldest surviving world maps are the Babylonian world maps from the 9th century BCE. One shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass showing Assyria, Urartu and several cities, in turn surrounded by a “bitter river” (Oceanus), with seven islands arranged around it. Another depicts Babylon as being further north from the center of the world.

So there is no surprise that maps are super old and have been around for quite a while – but the fascinating thing is how map making has changed over the centuries. Today we don’t just map out land, we map out man made objects – like train tracks, subways, roads – heck even planes follow some type of invisible course. Don’t forget though that the earth isn’t the only thing that can be mapped, we can map the universe! Check out this awesome video of the largest map of the universe we have yet (as of aug 2012)

This is an animated fly-through of the Largest Map of Universe Yet (Captures 1 Million Galaxies) created by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III. It shows the positions of galaxies mapped in 3D space.

Pretty mind blowing right? Today we are showcasing some completely epic examples of map design & cartography art! You could help extend that map, or you could create a real life accurate land map, or even make believe fantasy map for a game or movie/tv show, or just for fun! Whatever you are working on, I hope this collection inspires the geography nerd deep inside you :). I hope you Enjoy!

Fantasy Cartography – These first dozen or so are some awesome fantasy maps designed for games and books

Maps for Children’s Novels! Now that is an epic use of Design

This is awesome. This is a -very- high resolution map of Tamriel from the Elder Scrolls game series. (click picture for hi-res source)

Valcia – Regional Fantasy Map Design

This is pretty interesting. A map of Equestria, using the postapocalyptic Earth theory.

Epic Map Design of Middle-Earth And The Undying Lands from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Map Design For Story Realms a game that was just funded on kickstarter!

Cool Map Design For Riftforge Online RPG

Awesome Frost Map Design for Dungeons and Dragons

Awesome Map Made for a Game Of Thrones Board Game!

The Realm Of Ice And Fire – Game of Thones Map!

Another D&D Map Design based loosely on prehistoric N. America

Not really a “map” but awesome art made with a map!

AWESOME 3D Level Design Map. So detailed. click through for all the zooms

Awesome Metro Train Maps!

Nice Washington, DC. Metro Map Design

Another truly epic Game of Thrones Map Design – A Map of Ice and Fire. a tribute to George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series

Wow, that is hardcore, this is a REAL life model of Westeros from Game of Thrones! Crafty!

COOL map design for 2d Pixel Art Game “Capitalism”

More amazing board games and battle maps that actually do a pretty good job of bridging the gap between artwork and user interface design. Inspiring.

These are some fun Illustrations of city maps for fun posters

These are fun Old World Map Illustrations of the Human Body

LoL interesting, thesis on information design as an old world map!

This map is hilarious (click through for more hilarious maps, that are probably offensive haha)


And finally, this is an actual map with nice fun illustrations! a journey around the world in pictures!

What was your favorite map design? Are you a fan of maps? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks for Reading!

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