For me, maps are the perfect fusion of art, information, insight, and entertainment. They help us navigate both physically and in the realm of ideas. What separates a good map and a great one is that the latter doesn’t stop with just mapping the territory: it expands the borders of our imagination.
There’s hardly a better place to see original, unusual, and interesting maps than this subreddit right here. Though we can’t mention the name (thanks, internet police!), it’s a veritable treasure chamber for cartographers, amateur and professional alike! Having celebrated its 10th birthday this spring, the online group now boasts more than 1.6 million members, pulling in thousands of new ones on a steady basis. Content is king and these redditors, including the founder, land surveyor Patrick McGranaghan, make some truly marvelous maps.
Featured here you’ll find some of the freshest and greatest new maps. Pack your bags, put on your safari hats, and let’s go on an adventure, Pandas! Just remember to upvote the maps that you enjoyed the most, the ones that taught you something new, and the ones that gave you a fresh perspective on the world.
Patrick, the founder of the subreddit, revealed to Bored Panda what makes a good mapmaker and whether we all need to be tip-top artists. A lot depends on the purpose of the map itself, however, the main goal is to make it as informative and easy to understand as possible. Art skills? Not as important. (Though certainly a plus!)
"There are many different reasons one chooses to make a map. Sometimes for navigation, sometimes for showing statistical phenomena, and sometimes for fantasy. While artistic skill helps, it is not absolutely necessary. The important thing is to make it easy for users to glean useful information. Most maps should have a thesis or a story it is going to tell and this needs to be told through the map," he said.
Hungry for more magnificent maps? Then you’ll want to have a scroll through Bored Panda’s previous articles about map-lovers and their creations here: [Unrolls 5 parchments with ancient symbols and drawings] Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
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I was curious to find out what personal projects Patrick has been working on recently. "Lately, I've been learning Blender. It is more of a 3-D animation program used by video game developers, but I believe that there are ways to use it to display maps," he spoke about the innovative way of using the program.
"You might have seen some beautiful maps by Sean Conway and Scott Reinhard showing old maps with digital elevation terrain underneath. These are often made in Blender. Blender has a great ability to show light and shadow patterns that are almost photo-realistic. I think there are ways to use this program beyond showing maps with realistic terrain. I'm still a novice now, but I'd like to explore other ways this program can visualize maps," Patrick spoke about his ongoing adventure to learn Blender. If you Pandas haven't already, you really ought to take a look at Sean and Scott's work as well.
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The founder also told Bored Panda about the current state of the subreddit and how Reddit as a whole has changed recently. Changes in tech are also driving changes in content. "The subreddit is doing well. Reddit overall over the last few years has shifted towards mobile-friendly content. Reddit used to be only for desktop users. In the early days, the content was mostly large files that were wallpaper-sized. They were great for zooming in and exploring in detail."
However, these days are long gone. Nowadays, "Reddit is overwhelmed" with users who only use it on their smartphones and other mobile devices. "For better or worse, that is how it is and that's the trend for the future. The subreddit contains a lot of bite-size Instagram-style statistical maps. The community upvotes this content and if that's what they want, that's the direction the sub will take."
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Patrick, the founder of the subreddit, was kind enough to go into detail about the online group, map-making, and his passion for maps on a number of occasions.
“I've noticed, especially as I've gotten older, that you only have so much time on this planet and every day that is wasted is a day that you'll never get back. If you want to get out and explore the world you just have to do it,” Patrick previously told Bored Panda about seizing the day and starting your adventure today, instead of putting these things off indefinitely.
“Some adventures will cost time and resources, but the real question I ask myself is can I afford not to do some goal I have my heart set on. There are so many opportunities in this world that it may be hard to choose, but if you wait too long those opportunities will be gone forever," Patrick said that we have to seize opportunities to live (really live) as they come.
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Recently Patrick had been working on pixel maps that are bound to get the attention of anyone who’s got a penchant for video games, retro items, or pixel art. "This spring, I was making a lot of pixel maps that looked like old video game graphics. I picked some exotic places like Botswana and Mongolia to make these maps," he revealed a bit about his projects.
"I think a great way to learn about an exotic place is to make a map of it and really give some hours and care into making the map look as good as possible. You really get a connection for a place as you're putting labels on and making decisions about what to include and where to lay everything out,” the founder told Bored Panda.
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According to Patrick, moderating the subreddit is all about keeping a delicate balance and staying realistic: the fact is that you can’t keep everyone happy all the time. Nor should you try to when questions of quality are involved. “Moderating is always a delicate balance. It is impossible to please everybody. If you are too laissez-faire you get a lot of low effort and ugly submissions and the users complain,” he said.
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However, being too strict is also not an option. “If you are too strict, then you risk alienating those who supply the content for the sub. I try to find a balance between these two extremes. Overall, I'm satisfied with the moderating and I don't foresee any changes in the immediate future," Patrick explained.
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Some people are naturally more skilled at navigation and using maps than others. Though, of course, navigation is a skill and you can get better at it so long as you’re patient, dedicated, and spend enough time honing it. “The older I get, the more I realize that spatial awareness just comes naturally to some people, and for others, it's a struggle," Patrick said. “In a way, reliance on Google Maps has made us dumber. We let the navigation app do all the work for us and don't engage with making the decisions.”
The founder had some advice for everyone about how we can develop our navigation skills in our local area. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door before moving on to bigger adventures.
"If you live in a place with a tall hill or some viewpoint, go up there some time and look around. Try to identify as many landmarks as you can. Notice where they are in relation to each other. Look for new landmarks that you've never noticed before and keep them in mind as you navigate your hometown.”
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Patrick continued: “If there are rivers or other features that cause chokepoints on bridges or highways, memorize all the bridges and where they go. In this way, you'll know the layout of your city and how to get around.”
As for the idea that ‘everything has been mapped,’ Patrick thinks it’s a bunch of baloney. “The world is constantly changing and accurate spatial data is a fleeting thing. Google Maps certainly gives the impression that everything is mapped, but there is selection and generalization in their data," he said that there will always be a need for new, fresh, updated maps.