Maps are such a natural way for a human mind to represent reality that most take them for granted without asking what it takes to make a map. Yandex.Maps is a continually evolving complex structure. Behind the most insignificant changes there is an enormous amount of research, and a great number of experiments. Andrey Karmatsky, the head of design for Yandex.Maps, is talking about his passion for visual representations of the Earth’s surface.
Why do I love maps?
Maps fascinate me with their beauty, behind which lies a lot of meaning – information that has been meticulously collected and structured.
Take, for example the Carta Marina by the Magnus brothers. It might appear to be nothing more than a beautiful illustration. In fact, it is a unique historical document containing a multitude of details and facts about Northern Europe in the 16th century. Only two copies of this map have been preserved to this day.
Today – centuries later – technology and algorithms allow cartographers to create incredible things.
Watercolor by Stamen Design.
Map tiles by Stamen Design. Data by OpenStreetMap
Some artists also like maps, and use them in their works, or paint pictures in the form of fictitious maps. Matthew Cusick created a series of works out of old American geography textbooks.
But a map is not just a picture. The correct presentation of information helps people to make important decisions. And whether they make the right decision depends a lot on how accurate and complete that information is.
Correctly presented cartographic data can save lives. This was well illustrated by the cholera epidemic in Soho in 1854, when London doctor John Snow spoke to local residents and marked cholera cases on a map.
After three days of observations and study of the map, he deduced that a public water pump on Broad Street was the source of infection. As a result, the decision was made to disable the pump – and the number of cholera cases fell sharply. A memorial to John Snow now stands at the site.
Such stories – in which a correct map helped people – are numerous.