You probably didn't know that the Cartography and Geographic Information Society annually names the best map of the year (or that such an organization existed), but for 2011 the award was won not by a map made by National Geographic or any other big institutions but instead by a single indie mapmaker's. Slate's Seth Stevenson reports that David Imus worked solo out of an Oregon farmhouse "seven days a week for two full years" to make his "The Essential Geography of the United States of America." "This object—painstakingly sculpted by a lone, impractical fellow—is a triumph of indie over corporate," writes Stevenson. But whatever anti-corporate sentiments you have aside, the details of the map are worth of look. Notice how Imus forwent including many of the smaller towns around Chicago to list the city's cultural landmarks like Wrigley Field and Grant Park. Another clutter-killing design feature: instead of shading states' borders different colors, like National Geographic's does below with a purple line for Michigan and a yellow line for Wisconsin below to the right, every state gets a thick, straightforward solid green line. These are simplifying features, Stevenson argues, that aren't usually captured in digital maps like Google's. A full rundown of the details that garnered this map attention is available from Stevenson here, while in-depth images of the paper map can be found at Imus's Facebook page.
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