As digital-mapping technology evolves, the need for physical paper maps seems less and less apparent. When was the last time you used an atlas to plan out a road trip? Would you even know how? MAPSearch produces and sells digital data across multiple platforms that can be analyzed, manipulated and customized to fulfill a multitude of business applications? So why do we continue to take the time to create and print wall maps? Well, if you’re like me, you believe that paper maps are more than just analytical tools, they are a unique medium that presents an artistic and functional view of or our surroundings in a way that digital displays cannot replicate. When we create a wall map, our goal is to produce a showpiece fit for a corporate boardroom or lobby. So with that in mind, let’s take a few moments to examine what goes into producing a MAPSearch wall map.

Arguably the most important part of creating a map is planning. At MAPSearch, paper maps only represent a small portion of our product lineup so it is important that we only dedicate resources to producing maps for which market demand exists. Once a geographic area and infrastructure dataset has been selected, there are additional considerations that must be made. Our maps are based on our digital GIS data, which, in turn, is based on thousands of digital and physical sources. Our team will perform an audit to determine the accuracy and completeness of our source information for the selected area. If additional information is required, an effort will be made by our research team to locate and procure that data.

Following our audit, the actual map creation process can begin. The maps’ dimensions are restricted by the size of our plotter, so a delicate balance must be struck between the size of the geographic area represented and how much information can be presented. For instance, in our just released 2016 US Electric Power Generation & Transmission Map, aesthetics and practicality dictated that we limited the power plants displayed to which have a nameplate capacity of 200MW and above. Displaying every plant in our database would’ve made for a cluttered and unappealing mess. Everything from the the most appropriate base map, to the size of the legend, to the color and style of the points and lines, to the size of the type font will be factored into the final product. Ideally, when our new wall map is finished, it will be both visually appealing, and will accurately represent the subject-matter for which is it was created.

I hope that this post has shed a little bit of light onto the processes that take place behind the scenes during the planning and creation of a MAPSearch Wall Map. The electric power map referenced above can be viewed and purchased through the MAPSearch bookstore here.

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