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The beauty of cartography in our digital era

Let’s talk about maps. There’s something poetic about putting a place onto paper. Not only is there a need and an usefulness for maps, but oftentimes there’s an emphasis on art & design. A well-designed map not only provides the information you need, but also provides you with an interest and a desire in discovering that information.

These days, paper maps are less and less frequent. Unless they’re something you pin up on your corkboard, collect from the hostel front desk or stow away in a travel journal, you’re likely using digital maps more than paper ones. And while I’m a big proponent for destroying the environment* for the sake of paper products (books, maps, notebooks), I also think there’s plenty to value in our new digital era. Historically, maps have provided important uses whether chronicling diseases (read The Ghost Map if you haven’t — it’s an important piece about a cholera outbreak in London which lead to the development of one of the most important maps in history) or navigation for ships.

Digital maps have been around for a while. MapQuest and Google Maps have provided drivers with turn-by-turn directions for years. With improved satellite surveillance and up-to-date information, maps are more than just driving references these days. Many online maps provide detailed information for public transport, bicycling paths, walking directions and, famously, embarrassing and amazing street view photography.

But maps aren’t just for getting from point A to point B anymore. Thanks to innovative developers and coders, you can find maps for all sorts of uses online. Sure, there are maps created just for fun with selective data (such as these), but there are others which serve unique and useful purpose.

Paper maps have been around for a long time, and I don’t see them disappearing anytime soon. Spend 5 minutes on Pinterest and you’ll start to see maps for any and every type of subject matter. But with this new digital era, maps are coming online and they’re having to prove their usefulness as well as their beauty. Maps are no longer stagnant objects but have a full life unto themselves. Digital maps can be updated instantly, provide live coverage or simply present data in a clear and purposeful manner. And despite my love for paper, I’m pretty excited about the prospects for digital cartography.

The Big Blog Map Project

That’s where the Big Blog Map comes in. The project is meant to curate interesting and useful travel blogs from around the world. If you poke around the website enough, any sort of wanderlust you might have could be easily cured (or perhaps enhanced). The Big Blog Map also provides custom-tailored maps for blogs and websites, for which I was provided my own personal map. You can explore my personal Travels of Adam map (exclusive to this website — with all my travel blog posts & city guides categorized geographically!) here:

Contact Ben at the Big Blog Map for your own map quote. And be sure to poke around my own Travels of Adam map to find all my content geographically!

*Please note: I don’t really believe that destroying the environment for the sake of paper is sustainable or enjoyable. But the touch of paper is undoubtedly important for nostalgic reasons as well as providing an oft-forgotten need to connect to nature. There are plenty of companies and services which provide recycled paper products. This Earth of ours is important, and recycling is an important part of maintaing a well-designed life.

  1. Maps turn me on. They’re so fascinating. I’ve experimented with Google Maps on some pages, but your map is much prettier.

  2. Mike says:

    Contrary to my blog name, I love maps. Unfortunately, reading a map is a skill that I believe many people are losing. I’m glad you share my love if cartography Adam! I have some ideas of maps I may be creating soon!

    • Adam says:

      Cool to hear that you’re planning to make maps Mike! Mapmaking Mike, maybe? :)

  3. Without the need for an intrinsic power source, there’s something wonderfully *slow* about stretching out a map on a flat surface, putting a finger on a location, and drifting over the map to the next location. Digital maps are very convenient, especially with the open-source availability of country, state/province, regional, and city maps at one’s fingertips. But upon arrival in a given environment, there’s something to be said for leaving the mobile-device in the room, putting a paper map in the back pocket, and heading out to wander.

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