Every year the Cartography and Geographic Information Society holds a competition – the equivalent of the Academy Awards for maps — for the best map of the United States. While it’s often won by one of the major players in the mapping world, like the US Census bureau, in 2010 it was won by a one-man shop run by David Imus of Eugene Oregon.
Imus’s map differed not just in the scale of operation, but in the very way he went about constructing it. Traditional map-makers make use of algorithms to position labels, size towns and arrange points of interest, and they farm out the rest of the work to teams in India to manually fill in. While Imus’ map was constructed on a computer it didn’t use algorithms, leading to Imus toiling 6,000 hours, 7 days a week, for two years, obsessing over font types, state boundary colors and things like what symbol to use for airports. The little touches made the difference – the map was beautiful. Read more