Tips for better map design

The dotted line that connects the two locations can be misinterpreted as a street or walkway. The map consists of lines to represent city pathways (streets or subways). Adding a line to connect the start and end points muddles that theme of 'Lines = pathways'. There is no great need for the dotted line - it is not a path, it does not help the viewer get to the destination. I repositioned MoMA PS1 and enlarged You are here.
Tip: Include only graphic elements that will help the user understand the desired route or destination.

A better map to Jury Duty
In 1995, I was summoned to serve on a jury. The summons is accompanied by a form letter that looks a bit frightening. The recipient is probably already a bit put off - having to serve and not knowing enough details to easily get to the courthouse. I designed a better info piece to accompany the jury summons.
The map includes exits off the nearby interstate highways, locations of parking garages, and nearby sights. The streets and intersections are more clearly delineated.
Lesson: Great design must be for the user, not for the client, and certainly not for the designer.

Full story here.
Better map to Juvenile Court
Some people assigned to jury duty are asked to serve on a juvenile case which meets at a different location. Those asked are given a map (below left) to help them get to the Juvenile Courthouse. I was somewhat appalled at the poor design of the map so, of course, I had to redo it (below right). The existing map looked cheap, sloppy, and unprofessional. The original was probably designed by someone who already knew how to get to the Juvenile Court, so it doesn't do a good job of clearly communicating to the novice - and almost everyone who gets the map is a novice on where the Juvenile Court is located.

•  The streets and intersections are more clearly delineated.
•  It includes freeway references with exits denoted.
•  There is more landmark identifying information.
•  Access to parking is clearly conveyed.

Map to my house and map to a friend's house
Freeways and major roads are shown, the wide grey stripes are the recommended routes.

Map to AIGA events at OPUBCO
People came from Tulsa, OKC, Norman, and Stillwater. The enlargement provides the exits and parking location.

Martin Nature Center
A nature park with lots of great walking trails for wandering, benches for sitting, and rails for leaning. But, they had no clear instrument to educate people how to get to the site. I prepared this map for my students )I recommended they visit the site for a neurobic experience) that shows the freeways, exit ramps, and major streets.

Full story here.

Dallas Design Districts
A handout and web pdf created for students who planned to visit Dallas.

GuideMaps: New York City
Created for student Study Tours, including streets, landmarks, design sights, and subway entrances.

Above left: Midtown and Fifth Avenue.       Above right: Design district: Madison & Union Squares.
Below left: SoHo.       Above right: Financial District/Lower Manhattan.

A proposed map for the University of Central Oklahoma

Existing map. Buildings, athletic fields, and the pond are all the same confusing solid black. Purple: sidewalks showing the grid and orderly navigation, yellow: major east-west connector streets (Ayers and Main Street) and entry/dropoff loops, and blue: corner entries to the campus. The 'green' areas - ponds, trees, lawns, etc. It is an earlier version so it doesn't show all the proposed buildings.
Target audiences impacted by the map of the campus:
1. Prospective students, parents, and friends.
2. First-time students, faculty, and staff.
3. Repeat students, faculty, and staff.
4. First-time visitors to academic events.
5. First-time visitors to non-academic events.
6. Repeat visitors to campus.
7. Metro citizens using the campus for recreation.

In the map above, notice the orderly grid pattern, the hierarchy of sidewalks, a better sense of order and navigation, the mall focal points, easier-to-maneuver parking lots, and the new buildings.
The full story.

Ridiculous layout of floors in building

This is a foto of a directory/map that was mounted in the Student Union at Oklahoma State University. Notice that the floor plan of the basement is located at the top with the other floors ascending below it. Let me repeat - the basement is at the top! We have been conditioned to recognize that the basement is the lowest floor with the other floors rising in number above it. This designer should have embraced that familiarity and not fought it. I cannot think of any advantage or any reason for putting the basement at the top of this (or any) directory.
Design decisions are a compromise between the familiar and the innovative.
Design should enhance society and make our lives better, not more make it confusing.

Update: The entire Student Union was remodeled. New building maps and directories were posted that had the basement at the bottom.

Maps that suggest a Hudson Ocean

The map above left is from the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. It shows downtown Manhattan with the Hudson River (ocean?) on the left and the East River on the right. For some arrogant reason, New York mapmakers, especially those with the MTA, do not like to acknowledge New Jersey. But, many people in New Jersey work, shop, and party in Manhattan.
The purpose of maps is to orient us to our surroundings and guide our journeys. They should. at least, be accurate in their portrayal of the surrounding environment. City limits are no longer accurate divisions of metro areas. Metro areas include numerous towns and cities that are more accurately defined by the the television viewing area, geography, and highways.
This seems to be another example of designers not communicating efficiently to their target audience. Designers must keep in mind the end user and design for those people, not for themselves. The MTA cartographic designer was narrowly thinking of just having to show the routes within Manhattan.
Full story and more images.

Maps that got it 'right'

The maps above are a bit more accurate in that they show the proximity of New Jersey to Manhattan.
Saint Louis as a coastal city:

If Missouri had the same disregard for Illinois as New York does for New Jersey and if the New York mapmakers were given the task of a St. Louis map, that city would miraculously be on the ocean - the Mississippi Ocean - with the downtown bridges spanning an expansive body of water.

A more accurate map

On the original map, the fireworks stand looks like it is right on I-35. But, it's not and Camp Drive doesn't even intersect with the freeway (to clarify - 'Exit Seward' was written towards the bottom). The sketch of a better map provides reference (Guthrie, Edmond, OKC), clear entry/exit ramps, and a more accurate location of the stand on Camp Drive.

Showroom address that begs for a clear map

Once buyers are persuaded to buy a product, they then seek more specific info: Where do I get this? When are they open?
Great design (clear communication of a message) respects the reader enough to make it easy.
Notice, the Hours - the hours for M-Th are the same as those for F-Sa. At a glance, the ad suggests that there are different hours on the weekend. All days with the same hours should be grouped together, M-Sa, as in the example on the right below.
Now look at the address - this ad requires the reader to use some other device to discover where Hudiburg Circle is. Maybe call the phone number or check a map on the computer. But, isn't it rude and inconsiderate to require the reader to do all that? Since the client wants the reader to spend money at their store, make it easy. This would be a great place for a simple but appropriate map of the area, including freeway exits.
Great design impacts our lives by allowing us to make decisions more efficiently - easier and quicker. Great designers consider the reader/viewer/user's point of view.
Tip: Think like the target audience, not the client.

Lesson: A study of tetanus education at a university tested whether inducing higher levels of fear would encourage more students to get vaccinated. The fear level didn’t seem to make any difference, but one surprising change did: adding a map of the university campus showing the health center and the times vaccinations were available increased the vaccination rate from 3% to 28%.
That tiny change made it easier to take action that one will actually follow through. Or, removing any barriers that make it easy to not follow through on action.

Problems with the guide map to the UN
In 2007 I toured the United Nations in New York City. It was fascinating - I learned that it was the UN that mandated all air traffic controllers and pilots on the planet speak and understand English, that red means stop and green means go, and even the expiration date for milk. The logistics of the tour - learning where to go, getting tickets, waiting for a tour - were not conducted very well; a bit awkward, confusing, and inefficient. The map handed out was no better.

Here's the visitors map of the United Nations. Its from a brochure that is printed in a multitude of languages for the international visitors. At first glance it looks like a decent map, but here's how this map could be better:
•  Change the label of 1st Basement to Lower Level. The label on the left, Visitor's Lobby is okay since it is at the entrance level, but the visitor doesn't know nor care how many basements there are - first, second - we just don't care. Basement sounds a bit scary - 'we gotta go down to the basement?' Lower Level works because it relates to the lobby level - one intuitively gets that it is beneath that.
•  Change the icon for the Ticket Desk. A dollar sign often means an ATM machine. The ticket desk is actually the first place the visitor wants to go - to get a ticket to go on the tour. One would not think to go to the place with a dollar sign - one wants a ticket, not money.
•  Use the standard icon for Elevator. The one used here looks like the one for an empty vending machine.
•  Delete references to the Tour Coordinator. The visitor doesn't care who is in charge of coordinating tours. If that also serves as tour information, then label it Tour Information (although there is another Info booth by the entrance and one is likely to seek info from there or the ticket seller).
•  Reduce the number of legend icons. Legends make the reader go back and forth from map to legend to find stuff - usually, as is the case here, there is enough room on the map to label the item without adding another layer of information.
•  Remove the tiny arrows pointing to the restroom entrances. Move the restroom symbols to the entrances. One doesn't care where the bathrooms actually are as much as where the entrance to the bathroom is. The arrows are added to compensate for poor design decisions. Instead of adding crap, redesign and solve the problem. Design should aid communication and comprehension, not bog it down.
•  Change the color coding. The light green in the lower right of the left map is off limits to visitors, but the dark blue Exhibits Area color looks more foreboding - the light green, being so close to the tan area, looks inviting; like one can go there.
•  Here is the crucial change to make - reorient the map on the left 90 degrees to the left. One enters at the green entrance and looks straight ahead - the map should respect that orientation so the visitor can get his/her bearings more easily and intuitively. And - the two maps are oriented differently. If one does get the orientation bearings from the first map, then one goes downstairs and the map for that level is turned differently. Its just rude and inconsiderate to be messing with people at a time when they are disoriented and want to be guided, not confused.

This map is another great example of a piece in which the designer did not design for the user.

Unnecessary legends
Use a legend only if the map itself cannot convey the necessary entities. Below: There is no need for North/South arrows - nobody knows or cares once they are in the airport. The concourses should be labeled directly - no need for a color-coded legend.

Below: This map for the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth does not need a legend at all. Just label the entities or use a familiar symbol. Removing the legend, some of the pond, and some of the building that is off-limits to the visitor allows the map to be enlarged within the same amount of space.