Cartographic design is all about drawing. Before I begin something new, I always start by reflecting on the essentials. I like to dissect and think about the most basic elements. What’s in my toolbox? What are my ingredients? Let’s think about lines. What can lines describe?
A line can describe a route - from point A to point B
A line can describe a shape or a form, such as a coastline
A line can describe a ground feature such as these airport runways at SFO
With contour lines we can give forms dimension
Here’s a drawing technique I learned at NACIS, called Illuminated or Shadowed Contours, or otherwise called “Tanaka Contours”
Here are a variety of railroad lines by cartographer Erwin Raisz
Lines can also describe a structure such as a grid
Lines can form into polygons such as these building footprints
Apply a grid to a building facade and it becomes a surface
Repetition! The tool I love most! Repeat a line and we have stripes!
Change the rhythm and we have a gradient
Stripes can become texture when applied to lines, such as these diagonal stripes on a coastline
Or apply these repeated wave lines to an area and you can create a water texture
I use some of these drawing techniques in one of our featured styles called Refill. Refill is a continuation of the Toner style I started at Stamen. Think of Refill as a more detailed Toner, an elaboration with the GL capabilities of Tangram. With Tangram I’m able to explore more detailed line work, patterns and building extrusions. Below are some highlights of line-work from the Refill Style along with some isolated examples of drawing techniques I talked about above.