Maps Rule, Wait Maps Have Rules?

Updated: Feb 2

𝐖𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐫𝐮𝐥𝐞 but did you know maps 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐫𝐮𝐥𝐞𝐬? Most people hardly ever think about the similar patterns maps follow. We just pick it up, find point A find, find point B, then try trace the path between them. Such a simple task that can be done the same way no matter which map you pick up. This uniformity is not by chance, it is thanks to the 7 cardinal map rules this action is possible. Let’s take a look at some of the rules governing how maps are made, the map must haves that keep our lives from being complete and total navigation anarchy.

⟴ 𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧

Just like buying ocean front property in Nebraska, location is everything. The Collins Dictionary defines map as ‘a drawing of a particular area such as a city, a country, or a continent, showing its main features as they would appear if you looked at them from above‘ It’s right there in the definition, a map wouldn’t exist without a location, it has to depict something. Which is why the first and foremost thing all maps have to have is a location. Even if that location is the world itself, as shown in the exquisite 1897 map below.

⟴ 𝐌𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐭𝐲𝐩𝐞

Just as a blonde and a brunette walk into a bar, everyone has their preference. Many people prefer polar maps, others like topographic, for some thematic maps are their thing and sailers always go for nautical. Which brings us to our second cartographical rule, maps need to specify their type. Such as the magnet board map of the world below it says it right there in the title Polar map of the World; polar being the type.

⟴ 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧’𝐭 𝐣𝐮𝐝𝐠𝐞 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐩 𝐛𝐲 𝐢𝐭𝐬…

Wait, you should judge a map by its cover. In this crazy world we might not be able to rely on much but we can always rely on a maps title. What you see is what you get, it has to be it’s in the rules. The title doesn’t just set the tone for the map it IS the map. Which is why there are guidelines in place to keep it honest. The map title must convey the following 2 things:



Let’s take a look at the map below:

𝐋𝐨𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧: British Isles

𝐒𝐮𝐛𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭: popular map

𝐓𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞: Popular Map of British Isles

⟴ 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐞𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐮𝐧𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐩

Key is to a map, what a key is to a door. Apart they are mindless protection. Together they unlock worlds. The key explains how to read your map. It takes the symbols, colors and lines and arranges them in a way that makes sense, creating a special language only you and the map share.

⟴ 𝐃𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬

Not to confuse direction with orientation! Most maps we see today are oriented with north at the top, although it’s a standard it is not a rule nor is it required. In reality your map can have a number of locations at the top, which can make things a bit confusing. To add to that disorientation the map is fixed, we aren’t requiring us to orient ourselves to the map. How do we do this? Enter the North arrow, all maps have to have a North arrow. It doesn’t matter if it is an East up, West up, or even the rare South up, all maps have to point North.

⟴ 𝐓𝐨 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐫 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐞?

Don’t worry it’s not that kind of scale, maps don’t care if you had an extra donut with breakfast. We are talking about the configurations it takes to turn our 3D world into the 2D world of maps. How do you go about turning this big world of our into 1 piece of paper? Well you have to scale things down…quite a bit. So as a rule all maps need to show that scale. This gives the reader accurate real world knowledge. I know what your thinking, ‘but maps aren’t always to scale’. If a map is not to scale in lieu it has to have N.T.S (not to scale) written in the scales place.

⟴ 𝐆𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐮𝐞

Technically maps would cite the world as their data source however the requirement is more localized. The citation is the maps signature, it tells the world, who created it, when and why. A proper map citation encompasses the following:



▪️place of publication


The guidelines specify what but not where. Although usually found all together near the bottom this isn’t always the case. Take this beautiful map of the Isle of Mann. The citations show up in multiple locations.

That’s it the 7

cardinal rules of a map. Now that you are well versed…

𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐢𝐭:

Go grab a paper map, open it, study it, go over this list and try to find the elements on it. Then close your eyes and randomly pick a spot. Use that map as your guide and go explore. Get outside, find something unexpected, make a memory! Whatever you do, where ever you go, just make sure you have a great time doing it!

#mapon everyone

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