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354 - Typogeography, Illegible and Otherwise

January 24, 2009, 2:55 PM


(click map to enlarge)

A truism in geopolitics holds that “geography is destiny.” Maps don’t have to be so dramatically laden with meaning, though. In this case, geography is mere typography. This map of the world shows the names of the countries projected within their borders.

  • Best-fitting, or at least most legible are the large-surface countries: Canada, USA, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Greenland (not an independent country – yet).
  • Africa’s 53 countries jostle for typespace, with only larger countries such as DR Congo, Sudan, Lybia, Chad and Algeria legible (it helps if their names aren’t too long either).
  • You need to squint to recognise any of Europe’s countries’ names – Ukraine, Sweden, Finland and Norway stand out: elongated shapes lending themselves to typesetting. The rest is practically illegible (1).
  • Long-name countries, especially in combination with relatively small surfaces, are not ideal for readability: New Zealand, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea are points in case.
  • Being an archipelago also doesn’t help, vide Indonesia.

The mapmaker clearly didn’t bother with some of the more hopeless cases on the map (typo-geographically speaking, that is): Bangladesh, Malaysia (at least its eastern, Borneoan half), Lesotho, etc.

This map is taken from this page at vladstudio, a website for Siberian graphic designer Vlad Gerasimov’s work, which was featured before on this blog in #148. Many thanks to all who sent in this map, including Kaushik Sridharan,Varda Elentari, James MacKenzie (and possibly a few others that I can’t search-and-find in my bulging inbox).


(1) A beautiful word, put to hilarious use in the Billy Bragg song ‘Walk Away Renee’: “I said, ‘I’m the most illegible bachelor in town’ / And she said ‘Yeah that’s why I could never understand any of those silly letters you sent me’.”

354 - Typogeography, Illegi...

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