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Cartographic design principles

German industrial designer, Dieter Rams, once asked himself a question, 'Is my design good design?' The answer formed the basis for his renowned ‘ten principles of good design’.

Inspired by this we have put together our own list of cartographic design principles to promote good map design.

They are ‘what works best for us’ but are also intended as a useful guide for anybody making a map, from Ordnance Survey customers to budding neo-cartographers.

It is certainly not our intention to lecture others on what is right or wrong. The purpose of our principles is to offer some useful guidelines that we believe are relevant to map design and in many cases will stimulate better cartography.

It is important to remember that these are principles and not rules; there are no rules as such. Anything goes, but the final distinction is between a map that works well and a map that doesn’t.

Each principle is supported by a real example of how we have applied it to one of our own maps.

Through the correct application of cartography a well-designed map communicates its message clearly and provides a pleasing user experience. We believe that the following eight principles are fundamental to successful map design:

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