What is Mapping?

Mapping is a key issue in environmental and experiential graphic design, since the discipline’s goal of “connecting people to place” often requires getting people from Point A to Point B.

Despite the advent of GPS and other digital navigational tools, mapping will always be important. One of the primary goals of any wayfinding system is to provide orientation that helps users create their own mental maps of the terrain.

Maps for the built environment are designed quite differently than printed maps, with less detail, bolder colors, type, and symbology, and heavy reliance on “you are here” orientation. Significant research has been done on the human factors that should be considered in the design of wayfinding maps, including how users perceive and use them.

Wayfinding maps are prepared in a wide variety of styles and orientations—from highly realistic to simple and abstract, and from the traditional true-north orientation to “heads-up” mapping style. Tactile maps are often provided in locations used by the vision-impaired.

The most effective wayfinding maps are clear, simple, and easy to understand. In general, they should contain just the information required for orientation, and no more. Other basic principles of good mapping design include consistent use of terminology, colors, type, and symbols; “you are here” indicators; and appropriate scale.

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