I hand-draw my maps. Every line, every tree, every beast—every single thing you see is hand-drawn. Even the typeface used on my maps is homemade and unique to Royale Maps. And because everything is handmade, nothing is obvious or programmed; a creative decision is made for every item I place on my maps. To me, maps represent one of the earliest forms of graphic design: they must, within a given space and through the use of illustration and typography, convey a clear universal message. Below, I will share with you part of the creative process that went into making the Map of Florida.
THE MAP LAYOUT
My maps all start out as mood boards. I trace the land outline and waterways on my Wacom tablet and assess what paper format will be best suited to hold the map.
Very early on, I have ideas of what I would like to see my map feature, so I gather images and arrange a layout until I am happy with the overall balance.
At this stage, I get a taste of what I am after. There is still much room for the unexpected.
MAP OF FLORIDA: COUNTIES
After sorting out the longitudes and latitudes and outlining the Map of Florida, I defined the 67 counties. It was important to me that they be easily identifiable while blending gently with the background.
I brought the counties forward by using capital letters to list them on the map. Some counties were a little tricky: Sumter, Pinellas, and the county of Highlands didn’t offer much horizontal space, so I played with the size of the type until a good balance between legibility and aesthetics was achieved. The outline of the counties changed from color blocks to a gentle dotted line because I didn’t want to visually divide Florida into portions.
The dotted line I settled on works a lot better: you can see the counties if you look for them, but they don’t overpower the map.
Step 2: adding the counties.
MAP OF FLORIDA: KEYS
From the get-go, I wanted to dedicate a substantial section of the map to the Florida Keys. I looked around at what had been done in the past and admired the way Johnson Ward's map of Florida and the Keys featured a zoomed-in section dedicated to the Keys.
Next, I needed to refine the concept into something that was both legible and organic.
The Florida Keys exude a distinctly nautical ambiance, and with over 1,800 miles of mangrove-lined shoreline, this connection is undeniable. It seemed fitting to incorporate a mangrove tree into the design, with its roots morphing into nautical rope, adorned with intricate knots that eventually lead to an anchor. This anchor, in turn, serves to weigh down the rope, forming a neat, encompassing frame for the Keys.
MAP OF FLORIDA: EVERGLADES
Florida's Everglades hold the distinguished honor of being named one of the three most crucial wetlands globally. This extraordinary ecosystem teems with a remarkable diversity of fauna and flora. Naturally, I was compelled to grant the Everglades a prominent position on the Map of Florida.
While the Everglades themselves were clearly marked with a distinctive pattern, I felt they deserved even more attention. That's why I introduced two guardian alligators, serving as visual reminders of the precious nature of these wetlands, urging us all to treat them with the utmost respect.
MAP OF FLORIDA: STATE PARK & ELEVATIONS
I deliberately chose to forgo the conventional approach of covering the map of Florida with elevation lines. Instead, I harkened back to the old-school method, akin to Blaeu, by illustrating elevations as simple mountain profile views. This technique allowed me to represent all of Florida's highest points with a distinctive touch.
Additionally, the state parks are depicted on the map as profile views of trees, adding a unique dimension to their representation.
Personally, I find using profile views imbues my maps with a certain naive charm reminiscent of vintage maps from the 1600s.
MAP OF FLORIDA: THE RIGHT COMPASS
The compass is the emblem of Royale Maps, bearing great symbolic significance. I approach its design with careful consideration, always leaving it as the final touch on my maps. Each compass is uniquely tailored to its specific location.
For the Florida compass, I sought to infuse it with the essence of the sea and the vibrant tropical climate of southern Florida.
The hibiscus immediately sprang to mind. Abundant in the south of Florida, these flowers grace the landscape almost year-round. After some exploration, I settled on the Hibiscus Moscheutos, a popular variety native to Florida.
The four cardinal points, fashioned from metal, find their place on a rope, evoking a nautical backdrop that lends sturdy support to the delicate petals.
Exotic and nautical, the unique compass is the seal of Royale Maps.
Nature is your compass.
I'll conclude this brief tour of the Map of Florida here. I hope you've enjoyed this walkthrough, and perhaps it's sparked some inspiration within you. Creating a map is a deliberate and rewarding journey.
In the coming month, I'll be writing a post on how to design your own map, so if it's something that piques your interest, stay tuned.