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Which companies make the best detailed maps?

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Quick Answer

For maps of the United States, Imus Geographics is a winner of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society’s Best in Show award. In the past 20 years, cartographer Dave Imus has won the award on several occasions.

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Full Answer

Imus won most recently in 2010 for his map "The Essential Geography of the United States of America," but he has also won best in show for maps of the states of Alaska, Chugach State Park (Alaska), the state of Oregon and the Wallowa Mountains (Oregon). Imus, who treats cartography as an art form, works alone, using the data collected by his partner, Pat Dunlavey of Pat Dunlavey Cartographics, whereas most maps are created in corporate environments and designed in India.

For his map of the United States, he spent over 5,000 hours designing the map by hand with data sources collected from many different sources throughout the country. The design took him two years to complete. It differs from traditional maps in several key respects.

To maximize the amount of information on the map, Imus hand-selected typefaces and styles to fit the space in each inch of the map. Most maps use color to delineate one state from another, but Imus reserves colors for geographic features like forests (green) or cities (yellow). Instead of "hypsometric tinting," in which darker colors illustrate lower elevations and lighter colors higher elevations, Imus used relief shading. The culmination is a map with intricate detail and dense information that surpasses traditional maps for utility and aesthetic value.

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