Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mapmaking? So now we're geeking out over mapmaking?!?

In the words of a former TLC reality star: You betcha! And here's why: Because what we're looking at here just may the Absolute Very Best Map There Is of the United States.

It was honored with the "Best in Show" award by the Cartography and Geographic Information Society and puts to shame those rickety old chalkboard-sized ones your teacher used to pull down in the front of the classroom.

As detailed right here by Slate, almost every map we use is made by a corporation and outsourced abroad for fine-tuning. But, "The Essential Geography of the United States of America" (Ed. note: The site may be down due to high traffic) was made by one man, who spent every day for two years painstakingly putting this treasure together in his Oregon farmhouse. Total time: An estimated 6,000 hours!

So what sets David Imus' map apart? It's been cited for its realistic portrayals of terrain, having city names displayed scaled to their population, showing indications of dense forests, including labels for noteworthy museums or neighborhoods in a city, and a clean readability which avoids some of the cluttered text on other maps.

Somewhere, Lewis & Clark are shaking their heads and saying "Now that's a map."

Basically, this is artisanal mapmaking. Rare, old school craftsmanship. The cartography equivalent of quaffing a boutique wine when everyone else is pounding Franzia.

And why not pay a little attention to maps? This is sort of a Golden Age for cartographers, if you think about it. Google Maps, GPS in your car and cell phone -- they've suddenly become basic parts of every day life. And now we have a King of the Cartographers.

But since accolades alone don't pay the bills, if you want to contribute to Imus' kingdom you can pick up the map for between $12-40 over on his Web site.

Courtesy of HLN