What are the best typefaces for cartography?
I originally posted the answer on Quora which is where this question came to me.
A hard question to answer quickly.
In part it depends on the map. Road map, site map, area map, USGS Topography maps, Green Trails maps or on screen navigation map display are just a few map forms. Each map is similar but each can have a unique use.
Typography and graphic design of books, magazines, pamphlet, poster, ad, billboard, flyer you try to accomplish legibility and readability with the type. The balance may shift, poster headline that is highly legible set in unique or unusual typeface that type choice may not work for lines of copy in that poster design.
Cartography has many differences then typography in publishing print or on internet.
Typography on a map as a general guideline your selecting especially clear sans serifs typefaces, those typefaces engineered for cramped conditions, that work at small point size, and collections of symbols and markers are all useful when designing maps. But serif fonts are used too, look at a USGS topo map and you can see this.
The typography applied in cartography design the text and graphics compete. The text itself can represent a feature on a map. The typography on a map also needs to accomplish legibility and readability. The text is small, the text has a style hierarchy, text has a different kind of interplay with textured backgrounds and colors.
A popular typeface in use on printed maps is
A handy typeface of symbols is
Partial character set follows
A list of some typefaces used on maps;
The typography on a map has some unique demanding specifications. Mapmaking designs can have many purpose, type choice can reflect that.
Maps that follow are good illustrations of purpose.
The first example has two kinds of maps shown as part of a page of a brochure. The smaller map a location map, the other larger map a site map. These two maps work together intentionally. They share many of the same typefaces, but not all the same symbols and each has a own unique presentation of information style. Each map is unique in its purpose.
The next example is a bus route map that is the main purpose. It is also a stop location and street map. It is quite different from its parent the weekday route map. This map was to be fun and inviting to the weekend user. The look reflects posters, adds, billboards, and bus sideboards as part of a campaign to attract more weekend bus ridership. The map itself uses condensed san serif fonts, The surrounding typefaces unique, bold and colors are a bright, loud spectrum. A specialized purpose map.