Map Lettering - Font Style, Size, Weight
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Lettering is such an important part of map design it should always be included in the whole design.
Begin with the title
The title is important to set the mood and point of the map and go far to enliven and identify the map both geographically and culturally.
The title should have contrast with the rest of the map to draw attention, whether the title contrasts in color or contrasts in form and shape.
Use a font style that reinforces the map's purpose... a serif font for an antique-style map, a sans-serif for a contemporary-style map, or a unique font that captures the feel of a culture such as Papyrus for a map of Greece.
Next add large land regions and oceans
These labels need to be of sufficient weight to draw attention, yet not be so overbearing they draw too much attention. Balance is the key. And balance can be difficult to acheive.
They should almost form a background that balance natural features such as mountains and forest.
You also need to consider direction...
- Straight or curved?
- Horizontal, diagonal, or vertical?
Finish with feature names
Again, balance is the key. The weight of the font should be consistent with the weight and size of the feature representations. If contrast clearly separates objects, similarity joins objects... in this case the feature and its name.
Don't forget proximity. The label should be clearly next to the object it labels.
About lettering and maps
Lettering requires three considerations...
- Style Choose a style that matches the look of your map. Oldstyle, modern, sans serif, hand-written, script, decorative. There are a great number of type styles to choose from.
- Size Make sure all sizes of type on your map are readable. But not so big they overpower. 10- or 11-point is good for labeling features such as cities. 14-point for more conspicuous features such as rivers and mountain ranges. 18- to 24-point for regional features such as the name of an island or ocean. And a large 24- to 36-point for the map title.
- Weight Size affects the visual impact of lettering. But so does the weight of the type. Light, normal, or bold works in combination with size to give an overall impact. Choose size first, then weight to match the overall map composition.
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