Illustrated chartography – why today

The printed cartography illustrated or not, is the answer to a series of needs that appear between every man and a new place he is called to act in. These needs remain unchangeable in time and closely connected to the intelligence and feelings of man. A variety of relations with the surrounding space occur when a person stays or passes through a geographical point.

Everyone, deliberately or not, is an amateur cartographer who tries to understand the geographical and topographical composition of a place he visits or lives in. The natural curiosity and the explorating mood that exist in every man, creates a basic need to gather information of general or specific character.

In questions like which is the town-building system of a settlement, the position of a specific monument, the location of a museum when standing in front of the monument mentioned or the sculpture of an extensive geographical area and its basic road network, only a printed map can give an efficient answer.

This is the reason why nowadays hundreds of millions of maps are printed and sold around the world. Most of them belong to the category of Topographical maps which are simpler in the making. A Topographical map is no more than a cross-section of the place that portrays and has an inventory in coded symbols of all information that a reader needs. People who are not accustomed to their use, find their reading troubling.

In contradiction to a Topographical, an Illustrated map visualizes on the designed surface all the information that a reader needs not in coded symbols but in their real form.

Literally, this means that the reader does not need to decode what his eyes see because the information is transferred within a second directly and accurately. Everything is in front of him as it should and as it actually is in form.

The maximization of efficiency in an illustrated map is achieved because it is designed from the beginning not as a cross-section but with a prospective depth. This means it is designed not vertically as seen from above but with an angle (usually 45 degrees) from the ground. In this way it gets a trimensional texture and becomes more familiar to the observer΄s eye which is also designed to capture the trimensional reality of the world.

For someone though who begins to design a Prospective Topographical map of a city manually, with zero loss of topographical information, requires a series of deformations that has to do (of course only with the topographical image and not the topographical reality).

The designer may for example enhance or diminute the size of building squares but he can΄t do the same with their number or position.

All these deformations are made in order to give the illusion of a trimensional surface (on the dimensional paper) and emphasize on the information that is more important than other (ex. the location and form of specific monuments, museums, squares etc. as well as the exact shape of a central road network or other areas such as a historic centre of a city, a big park).

Because of the reasons mentioned above, illustrated maps are also called Trimensional (3D) illustrations or “birds eye views”and belong to the category of those maps of a variable scale.

All these special characteristics make an Illustrated map today – as it used in earlier years as well – an exceptionally easy to use and functional tool so as to “read” a whole place while at the same time it keeps his highly artistic value as a pictorial hand-made product.

With a map like this in hand, a visitor or a new inhabitant of a city can navigate safely in it, have each moment the advantage of an overall and at the same time a specific view of a place, locate extremely easily everything he might be interested in to visit and choose with ease and fast all the routs he should or wishes to follow.


Being sure that he won΄t get lost or end up somewhere else than the place he initially chose, the visitor gets familiar to his surroundings faster, which allows him to visit more places and why not extend his stay so as to discover much more than he expected. In few words the perfect guide for a modern tourist!

Also, equally important is the potentiality of an illustrated map to become a communication platform between the visitor and the permanent inhabitant-professional, resulting in mutual benefits.

To sum up, we could say that an Illustrated map, beyond his worth as a map to use, it has an artistic value as well. This is appreciated by the visitor and by taking it back to his country or city, this map may become the most vivid picture he could transfer to his family and friends of the place he visited and share memories, emotions and impressions with them.

Nowadays, the creation of an Illustrated map involves all the difficulties and peculiarities that a designer will come across as it used to do so 300 years ago. Actually, the techniques are almost the same. In order to create it efficiently, the designer must live in the place he is interested in, literally walk everywhere, on every single street, record everything that he needs to design, capture the idea, philosophy and the esthetics of the place and imprint them in him with certainty and clarity as if he has always lived there. Otherwise, he won΄t be able to design the place accurately on the paper so as to please and inform the reader correctly. He must, within few months, grow the knowledge and aspect of the place to the degree of someone who΄s been living there for at least 10 years.

This procedure alone is a feat and must be completed before the designer draws the first line on the paper that the original map is going to be designed.

Fortunately though, from the moment that such a map is completed, modern technology steps in to provide the potentiality of reproducing the same map in minimum time, in quantities that can reach millions of pieces and with small cost to the recipients. The recipients are not only the millions of visitors that a modern city of specific interest attracts annually, but millions others from all over the world who buy maps before they travel so as to get a first glance of the destination they have chosen or intend to go to.

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