Maps are a perfect example of the importance of good information design. They are functional items and not like conventional packaging or written instructions. Packaging has to be attractive, in the true sense of the word, and information design must be attractive too, in order to capture the readers’ attention in the first place. However, the primary function of any map is to help the user to plan or find his way.
Producing one that achieves this is no mean feat and it is routinely under-estimated how complex a task it actually is – when done well. Maps can fail in two basic ways: they can of course simply be inaccurate and the outcome becomes obvious, but often only when used; they can also fail when the factual content is sound, but presented poorly. Everything on a map is symbolic and all facts are conveyed by implication alone. Maps are not like written instructions and a high cognitive load is being put on the user.
Different situations require different mapping solutions. A geographical map may be ideal in one context and a straight line diagram better in another. Scale is usually very important and simply making a map bigger or smaller is not what scale is about. Scale is about proportion and content.
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