What’re these?

Hyper-detailed LED-backlit installation maps in the best color temperatures, details down to 1/160th of an inch, only ~10 watts/square foot. See more videos on Instagram.

You’ll know it’s for you when you stand in front of one.

Everyone loves an illuminated map.
Everyone loves an illuminated map.
Everyone loves an illuminated map.
Everyone loves an illuminated map.

Where can I get one?

Etsy; reach out for custom work, sizes range from 9x12" to 20x30 feet.

Who makes them?

I’m cartographer Evan Applegate, you’ll find my maps in National Geographic, Manhattan offices, at the fête. In 2019 I tried to buy an illuminated map, couldn’t find any, started making my own.

I make maps to get lost in: all the detail of a paper map plus a streetlamp glow. No unpleasant emissions, thickly-detailed maps only, a swing at the richness of any driveway seedpod.

Everyone loves an illuminated map.

Neat idea; I love maps.

You have any hung up?

An old Baltimore street map. My sister-in-law gave it to me.

Don’t those old maps look great? It’s funny, if someone has a favorite map it’s never younger than 40 years.

Some of those old maps are works of art.

Those old maps took a lot of time and many hands; mapmaking used to be a real Process.

100 years ago cartographers had to know geodesy, trigonometry, drafting. If your map needed to show terrain you’d hire an engraver to scratch hachures into a metal plate, or an artist to draw hills and valleys in watercolors, graphite, charcoal. Then to get a map into a reader’s hands you needed a letterer to add text and a lithographer to make the print.

It must be all computers now.

Exactly. Nearly all contemporary maps are made the same way: download a pile of geographic data, discard what should not be shown on the map, make the remainder look nice in a design program or with code.

It’s an inversion of the old way of mapmaking: instead of starting with a blank page, you start with a cluttered map and winnow things out.

Who even makes maps nowadays?

Cartographers are still around. There are probably more cartographers working today than ever before: editorial cartographers, interactive cartographers, land management cartographers, atlas cartographers, government cartographers, all sorts of ‘tographers making maps that move, maps that stay still, maps that change by the second, maps of eternal things, load-bearing maps, nonsense maps. 

But the maps don’t look like the old ones.

Nope; almost every map you’ll see outside of a theme park is made via database output. Computers made mapmaking cheap, so the maps are cheap, so they look cheap.

Luckily there are still cartographers and artists making beautiful maps, on and off the computer:

That’s good to hear.

I’m optimistic; it has never been easier to make a great map. You should try it sometime.  

You mean make a map?

Yes, tell your friends, tell your family, tell everyone who Loves Maps: you can, and should, make maps. It’s not magic, it’s just practice.

© 2023 Radiant Maps ◆ info@radiantmaps.co