Getting Real: Reflecting on the New Look of National Park Service Maps

Tom Patterson


To make more inviting and understandable maps for general audiences, the U.S. National Park Service has been experimenting with cartographically realistic map design. Using rasterized geodata and unconventional image processing techniques, cartographic realism draws inspiration from traditional cartographic art, modern graphic design, observations of nature, and aerial photograph maps. The aim is to combine the best characteristics of imagery and maps into a more intuitive hybrid product. Discussed techniques include aquafication, texture substitution, illuminated relief, and outside land muting.


Cartographic realism, park landscapes, shaded relief, illuminated relief, cartographic art, Walensee, aerial photograph maps, Aitutaki, raster map design

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