Political maps emphasize political and cultural features but not physical features, climate data or economic and resource information, according to Rand McNally. Political features consist of major cities, large bodies of water and governmental boundaries, such as national, state and county borders. Cultural features include things created by man, such as dams, bridges and buildings. Political maps are usually drawn with each nation or state in bright, contrasting colors.
When information is needed about a region's land features, climate or economic characteristics, map readers can turn to topographic, climate or economic resource maps. Topographic maps show the shape and elevation of an area's terrain. Frequently referred to as "topos," these maps are drawn with contour lines that indicate elevation. When the lines are closer together, the elevation is higher. When the lines are farther apart, the terrain is more flat. Climate maps show a region's climate zone and precipitation (rain or snow). Economic or resource maps depict economic activity in a region and show the location of natural resources. Road maps are particularly popular amongst the public. These maps show major highways, roads, airports, railroad tracks and cities. Most map types are now available online or in digital format, and many digital maps are interactive.