Created by over two years, Slate explains what made David Imus’ map The Essential Geography of the United States of America the Best of Show at the annual competition of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society.
[…] David Imus worked alone on his map seven days a week for two full years. Nearly 6,000 hours in total. It would be prohibitively expensive just to outsource that much work. But Imus—a 35-year veteran of cartography who’s designed every kind of map for every kind of client—did it all by himself. He used a computer (not a pencil and paper), but absolutely nothing was left to computer-assisted happenstance. Imus spent eons tweaking label positions. Slaving over font types, kerning, letter thicknesses. Scrutinizing levels of blackness. It’s the kind of personal cartographic touch you might only find these days on the hand-illustrated ski-trail maps available at posh mountain resorts.
A few of his more significant design decisions: Your standard wall map will often paint the U.S. states different colors so their shapes are easily grasped. But Imus’ map uses thick lines to indicate state borders and reserves the color for more important purposes—green for denser forestation, yellow for population centers. Instead of hypsometric tinting (darker colors for lower elevations, lighter colors for higher altitudes), Imus uses relief shading for a more natural portrait of U.S. terrain.
Updated 2012.01.03: To include a few more pictures of the map from Imus Geographics‘ website, which was down yesterday.
In a speech given to the North American Cartographic Information Society, Imus said:
We have work to do with our art. As cartographers, we create what educators recognize as geography’s most basic educational tool, the map; yet in Canada, Mexico, and the US geographic illiteracy is epidemic. In the United States half our young adults cannot locate New York City on a US map, and 60% cannot locate the state of Ohio. One study showed that 25% of Dallas, Texas high school seniors couldn’t name the country that borders the United States to the south. In the last few weeks I learned that some American adults think Alaska is an island. I hope you will join me in believing that these things mean cartographers have work to do.