Representations of Map Data

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is the second running week with Margot, whereby we’ve been looking at analysing maps, and the information they provide us. The aim is to deconstruct the design of 2 maps, reporting the information given on each. These were the questions we had to ask to analyse the maps:

1. What do you think you are looking at on this map?
2. What is the audience or context for this information?
3. What cartographic language is used?
4. How is the topographical information represented?
5. What cultural artefacts are present that represent how people live their lives?
6. How could this be of historical importance?
7. How does this map abstract reality?
8. Can you describe the composition and construction?
9. What communication systems are used?
10. What is included and what isn’t? What are the levels of detail?
11. What scale is used?
12. Can you comment on the direction of the map?
13. How is typography specifically used within the design?
14. What linear qualities are evident throughout?
15. What is the colour palette and why may this have been used?
!6. Maps are socially constructed, what does this map say?

I’ve chosen to analyse the city map of Madrid, as well as the Swiss winter resort map.

Photo 16-04-2014 15 18 59


This map shows us a map of Madrid, gridded A to Z, an accompanying world guide is meant to be with this map ‘Hachette World Guides Spain’. The target audience for this map would be tourists visiting the city, the context of this map would appear to be an Ordnance Survey map. The cartographic language used shows the map to be gridded A to Z, displaying landmarks, there’s also a strong use of letters and figures in brackets after a place of interest or building; topographical information is represented with buildings of interest, an asterisk marks this. Cultural artefacts presented which can indicate how people live their lives include places of worship (religious), opera houses and other forms of entertainment, museums, an observatory, and a university. This map could be considered of historical importance as the location was considerably changed in the 19th Century. The map could be seen to abstract reality in the sense that it shows outlines of structures (of importance), and it does not show individual properties where people reside, it’s a very minimal map. The composition and construction of this map can be described as simple, minimal, with the only variety of colour shown being blue, for water. The manner of communication given in this map is presented in the top left below the title, this legend displays the scale, the only other symbolic use shows crosses, universally representing churches/cathedrals. There is emphasis on places of interest (outlined in bold), as is water which is the only different coloured item on the map; as well as this vegetation has a bubbly texture, roads are white, and buildings are beige (which is the majority of the map) – this is the maximum visual detail provided. The scale used shows 4.1cm as being 100 yards. The direction of the map is would indicate that we are viewing it looking north, the legend/title may navigate this also. The map’s typography presents bold type for places of interest, with most of the regular set type being in italics, the main roads display type with longer leading and tracking. Evident linear qualities running through the map show that all areas of importance on the map are all horizontally aligned. There seems to be a very bland colour palette used: black, white, beige; it’s simple as well as cost effective, considering it belongs to a book which has a number of similar maps contained. The social construction of this map tells the viewer to visit the landmarks and areas of importance, it’s trying to attract an audience.

Photo 16-04-2014 15 19 29

Swiss Winter Resort


This map represents a winter sports resort, displaying information for each of the routes shown, as well as the available facilities. This map’s audience would be primarily for people who are in attendance to the resort, it could also be available to potential visitors. The cartographic language used is shown in the form of linear routes and symbols. The topographically shows the mountain and lodges. Black lines represent the various lifts on the resort. Cultural artefacts include the language used within the map and the climate itself. People have made a sport from a naturally occurring land form. Historical value to be taken from this is that over time, the mountains paths will have been carved and shaped, making it what it is today; the result of this is that an up-to-date version of the mountain’s map is required to make sure the routes are correct and safe for the visitors. The map abstracts from reality by the fact that the illustration style is not ‘realistic’ in the literal sense, it’s meant to represent the mountain in a more digestible manner, it does this by presenting sloped surfaces and mountain faces of which are unsafe and not meant to be used. The map’s construction starts with an illustrated mountain as the background layered with different coloured lines which represent various routes; area names and pictograms shown within the key display their meaning of each, this communicates effectively to the audience. The detail shown on the map is sufficient and relevant, with the map’s illustration displaying the mountain’s form, where’s safe and unsafe, shown with colour contrast and shading/smoothing, routes and facilities are also present. There is no real direction presented for this map, it simply shows the resort to it’s fullest extent, the scale is in the form of the range of heights in metres up the mountain. Linear features throughout include solid lines for different routes, dashed for long country trails, and dotted for ski tours. The colours consistent include whites and blues to imitate the weather (snow & cold) the route colours are contrasting form their background to make them stand out, contrasting from one another. Colours are coded by level of difficulty (displayed in legend), this shows the suitability for all abilities of skiing.


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