the site

There are a lot of bad maps out there. They lurk in brochures, on company websites, and in magazines. They confuse, they miscommunicate, and they make it hard to learn anything about the world. Sometimes they leave off Sicily. They’re made by people who have to rush against tight deadlines, by people who are pressured by their bosses or clients to make bad design choices because it “looks cool,” and by people who were thrust into map-making jobs without any training.

I don’t hate these people. This site is not about attacking them. It’s about seeing what we can learn from their work, analyzing what went wrong, and having fun in the process. It’s never personal. A lot of work goes into making maps, even the most disastrous ones, and I have a good deal of respect for the people who go through it. I’m one of them, and I and a few of my colleagues proudly feature some of our own works on this blog as an example of things not to do.

We learn a lot from seeing what went wrong in someone else’s experience. I hope to amuse, but also to educate — to help people (myself included) understand what the elements of a good map are. And maybe, just maybe, if people are better able to understand what makes up a bad map, they’ll start demanding better ones. And then there will be a boom in hiring of highly trained professional cartographers. And then I’ll be able to get a high paying job. We’ll see what happens.

good maps

We also learn from what people do well, and to that end I also try and show great maps and explain the structure of their excellence. This is much harder than critiquing bad maps, because, often, the better something is done on a map, the less noticeable it is. I’m learning a lot through this process, and I hope you will, too.

giving credit where due

Tim Wallace came up with the name for this blog, though he later found out that Tom Patterson had already come up with the word (he in fact encouraged people to bring their worst maps to NACIS in 2008). But Tom Patterson does a lot of genius things that normal mortals cannot achieve. Anyway, other people probably came up with the word, too, at various points, since it’s a pun. I actually hate puns, but somehow I took Tim’s suggestion.

submissions

Please do send me bad or good maps that you run across, and tell me why you think that about them. You can reach me at cartastrophic@gmail.com. I can’t guarantee that I’ll use your submission (only a fraction make it on here), but I will smile warmly at you from afar. I don’t always get around to replying with thanks — this is rude of me, I understand, but it is not intentional. I get bogged down with work from time to time and some emails fall down the priority list. I apologize in advance.

the author

I’m a cartographer in Madison, WI. I like maps; I make maps.

the disclaimer

This work is entirely my own as a private citizen, and the opinions here are my own. Don’t blame my employer (if I happen to have one at present) for anything you see here.



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