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Prettiest map out there and map design

I’m currently reading-reading an old favourite - Haruki Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and I’d never really looked at the map properly before, but I love it.

What are your favourite map designs? I can’t wait to get cracking making my own.
 
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I have massive swings in my opinion here, so I can only conclude that I have no favorite style. I just love maps. One of the keys to finishing my first novel was to have an overview map of the world done and good enough that I would no longer want to revamp it, heh heh. I also seem to believe in different styles for different views. For a complete map of the world, for instance, I just couldn't get a simple, clean line drawing style that I liked, so I did the world in a more photorealistic style. For smaller areas, I really like more artsy styles.

For me in this respect, Pete Fenlon's Middle Earth Roleplaying maps are king. Second place goes to Jonathan Roberts, who did the artwork for the Song of Ice and Fire Maps. Full disclosure, I've chit chatted with Roberts back when that project was a super secret. I was trying to hire him for map-making at the same time he was working on Martin's world, so I ended up doing the maps myself, LOL. He's a great guy and a serious map nerd... and a "rocket scientist" physicist type big into the LHC at the time. So, I have some personal prejudice in loving his work; but then again, I tried to hire him because I loved his work. He also did some awesome tutorials over at the Cartographer's Guild.
 
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skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
No one has ever beat those 16thc and 17thc maps of cities. Here's an example.
http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/belgium/brussels/maps/braun_hogenberg_I_14_b.jpg

The collection at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is a trove of such maps.
Didn’t expect real maps to come up, but yes they are works of art. The Mappa Mundi comes to mind, mostly because it’s so gloriously weird.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I liked the old maps in the 'Hobbit,' 'Lord of the Rings,' and 'Earth Sea.' All the little trees and mountains.

A couple things annoy me about all too many 'world' fantasy maps.

First, they tend to show only a relatively small portion of the world.

The second is more technical - they don't take into account longitudinal distortions - a degree of east/west latitude at +45 (or -45) is half the distance of a degree of east/west latitude at the equator.

When I made my maps, I 'tilted' the longitudinal lines to correct that (well, mostly correct it). I also made the maps in color, but the ones in the print books are in shades of black and white and gray.
 
I played around with a lot of map projections, but in the end, went with equirectangular while also projecting that onto a globe. Someday I plan on putting it on a globe for the fun of it, having the world sitting there would be kind of cool. Fractal Terrains was fun for that, but I also toyed with Google Earth.
I liked the old maps in the 'Hobbit,' 'Lord of the Rings,' and 'Earth Sea.' All the little trees and mountains.

A couple things annoy me about all too many 'world' fantasy maps.

First, they tend to show only a relatively small portion of the world.

The second is more technical - they don't take into account longitudinal distortions - a degree of east/west latitude at +45 (or -45) is half the distance of a degree of east/west latitude at the equator.

When I made my maps, I 'tilted' the longitudinal lines to correct that (well, mostly correct it). I also made the maps in color, but the ones in the print books are in shades of black and white and gray.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I played around with a lot of map projections, but in the end, went with equirectangular while also projecting that onto a globe. Someday I plan on putting it on a globe for the fun of it, having the world sitting there would be kind of cool. Fractal Terrains was fun for that, but I also toyed with Google Earth.
My plan, such as it is, involves printing, cutting, and pasting (literally) - or more accurately 'taping.' Nine sections, each spanning 40 degrees of longitude by about 55 degrees latitude - and even that is less than half the planet's surface area. Put together, it'd be something...roundish, anyhow. Still got to finish up a couple of those sections.

Most fantasy 'world maps' would be one or two of those sections at most.

And yes, I did all this with plain old MS Paint...
 
For me it's the original Lord of the Rings map. It was one of the first maps I encountered in a book. And it was the first adult epic fantasy I read. The whole thing felt magical to me.

Looking at it again, after having seen a lot of maps, it's still a great map, even by modern standards. It's clear what's what, and where everything is, even at a small scale. It shows enough of the world to show where the action takes place, but also that there are more places in the world than those visited or referenced in the story.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Speaking of Middle Earth, I love the Pauline Baynes maps.

s-l500.jpg
 

pmmg

Vala
I think everyone loves a good map. As an author, I want my maps to be easy to reproduce, so....I tend to favor less detail. I am hoping computer map making will take care of reproduction so I can be more detailed. Not sure if its there yet.
 

Oculus

Acolyte
I think we'd all agree that the writer has to have to have a map, if only to avoid continuity errors and ensure journey times are sensible, but does the reader need to have one? If your characters start off in a tight, restricted world that opens up to them as the story progresses, should the reader have the bigger world to see from the start or should it be revealed to the reader and the protagonists at the same time?

And for the record, Tolkein for his beautiful penmanship, and Le Guin mostly for the names. Worst map? Try Elric of Melnibone.
 
I think we'd all agree that the writer has to have to have a map, if only to avoid continuity errors and ensure journey times are sensible, but does the reader need to have one? If your characters start off in a tight, restricted world that opens up to them as the story progresses, should the reader have the bigger world to see from the start or should it be revealed to the reader and the protagonists at the same time?

And for the record, Tolkein for his beautiful penmanship, and Le Guin mostly for the names. Worst map? Try Elric of Melnibone.
I finally drew out my own map, and for me personally, I don’t need to see the entire world - and this is the case with my own story. Only the part of the world that my story is set in is included, and it’s only a very small part of the world. I can provide more detail to the locations that way too. I have found it a great way to map the story better in my mind too by drawing it out.
 

Oculus

Acolyte
So your map developed from your story? I think I do it this way round as well, but the thread above suggests that for many writers the map helps drive the story.
 
So your map developed from your story? I think I do it this way round as well, but the thread above suggests that for many writers the map helps drive the story.
The map developed from the story yes, but finally visualising it has helped the creative process. You usually start with a world and the build a story around that?
 

Oculus

Acolyte
I had a world view of the major powers and how magic fitted in, then my two main characters and the places they lived in. After that the places came as the story grew and I didn't put it together as a map until much later. This did create some problems as I had to do a fair bit of re-writing to make sure it made sense. I've still not made a map that looks good enough to be part of a book, but that's partly because of my first point, that my story may work better without the rest of the world being revealed to the reader until the characters have explored it.
 

D. Gray Warrior

Troubadour
Drawing maps is precisely what got me into writing fantasy.

My own skills aren't that great, as I just doodle lines on paper and make simplistic designs for trees and houses, but one thing I always wanted to do is to make a cool looking fantasy map.

The prettiest maps, imo, are the ones made to like antique maps, because it just evokes the fantasy aesthetic.
 
Personally, I'd say maps and story shape each other back and forth. From the world-story concept, to the first sketches, the sketches suggest details, and back and forth. For me, the Sister Continents developed from a kernel way back when I read Tolkien and a little later Greyhawk was released. It took about 20 years for the stories and maps to gel. Even the name Sister Continents oozed out of the creation process with a meaning behind the words.
 

pmmg

Vala
My only issue with maps is that once drawn, they become pesky. The map shows the travel from her to there is 3 weeks, but the story kinds of needs that to be 3 days....that's were a lot of creativity takes place.
 
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