Sunday, May 20, 2012

Maki Map Symbols

Maps are frequently used in humanitarian safety and security. And if you're ever required to make a map, it should quickly and clearly convey information. One of the challenges is selecting an appropriate symbol to represent some physical location. All too often maps have arcane symbols that end up confusing the user. When you mistake a bus station symbol for a train station it can be annoying. But when a hospital symbol (at least you thought it was) leads you to a coffee shop, that could be a serious problem. Fortunately, governments and organizations such as American Institute of Graphics Arts (AIGA) have come up with standardized sets of symbols.

The AIGA symbols are good, but as a self-professed map-geek, I'm always on the look out for new map symbols that in some cases may work better across cultures. I recently came upon a growing collection of symbols named Maki that show promise. They're cleanly designed and most of them work pretty well. Here's an interview with one of the Maki designers to learn more about how they were developed.

If the Maki and AIGA symbols don't meet your needs, then head over to the excellent Noun Project site for even more free, downloadable symbols. And remember, if you're going to make a map that uses symbols, be nice to your users and include a key; that's map-speak for a list of the symbols with brief text descriptions next to them.



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