Typography is a key component of every map design. If no one can translate your map well-enough for it to be usable, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? So how can you add text to your map without the end-user squinting and struggling to decipher information?
Digging into Typography
Typography, the art of creating and arranging type for legibility and readability, can be a tricky component of map design. Even distribution of text with minimal distractions achieves clarity. However with cartography, this process can be complicated due to the interplay of multi-layered map features with text: Image density, the prevalence of colors and textures, and the visual hierarchy of map components can compete with text, detracting from legibility (how the typeface is designed and how easily it is interpreted) and readability (the way words are arranged on a page).
The eye reads text differently on a printed map: Letter-by-letter, versus as a complete word shape. Complicating matters, lines of text can run in many directions on a map, changing type size and style needs. To avoid accidentally making text harder to read and ensure the stellar results you want from your printed map, keep these things in mind when selecting and using text in your map…
Carefully Choose Typefaces
Font selection can be tricky, involving theory, practice, personal preference, creativity and intuition. But form should always follow function. To that end, selecting one serif and one sans-serif font is ideal. Serif fonts feature extra details or ‘tails’ at the end of each stroke, sans-serif options omit this added decorative touch. Opt for type ‘families’ with a large selection, such as heavy, bold, italic, narrow, and light options. Popular serif and sans-serif combinations include…
● Helvetica + Garamond
● Frutiger + Meridian
● Myriad + Kepler or Caslon
● Nueva + Tekton
Ideal typefaces are clear and legible, even in minute sizes, with those with narrower profiles preventing overlong lengths. Generally speaking, sans-serif fonts remain more legible as size decreases. However it is common practice to use serif fonts for natural features, and sans-serif for man made in mapmaking. If you’re not sure the best way to use text in your project, a quick consult with TypeBrewer, or a more thorough investigation into Cartographic Lettering Conventions (The Guild Handbook of Scientific Illustration, 2nd Ed.), may help.
Watch Out for Traps
Text will be placed over many types of backgrounds in your map, but it is important to prevent these print pitfalls:
o Placing text over backgrounds that are the same or similar color as the letters.
o Text placement over areas of too little contrast, such as white text on a light grey background.
o Text/background combinations that are hard on the eye, such as green text on a red backdrop.
o Placement of tiny text over complex, textured backgrounds.
o Kerning issues (spacing between letters), especially with text that follows a curved path.
Test-printing a ‘dummy’ of your printed map before going to press can bring to light any readability issues, ensuring text doesn’t compete with images and is properly sized, legible, and readable.
Is your map communicating its message successfully? Find your path to project success with the help of MapPrinter today.