Cartography typeface

zforest's picture

Hello all. I am a cartographer (well, cartography grad student) with a keen interest in typography and type design. I was wondering if you knew of typefaces designed specifically for cartography, or at least with an eye to cartographic usage. I know only of Cisalpin by Felix Arnold. A cool face, but without enough weights/varieties. Many of my fellow map-makers rely heavily on Garamond, Helvetica, Frutiger, Meridien, Sabon, Gill Sans, Univers, and Stone for labeling and annotation. These are great faces and surely sufficient for most map designs – just wondering if any cartography-specific faces are out there. I look forward to continuing my typographic education here on Typophile!

stw's picture

I think FF Parable could work!?

It looks very good in small sizes and you can set it very compact because of its short descenders. Furthermore it has a few more weights than Cisalpin including Smallcaps also the weights differ noticeable from each other.

Reed Reibstein's picture

I just got finished reading Typotheque's amazing Fedra Sans and Serif type specimen. As Fedra is so incredibly well-done, comes in four weights and three widths, and can be serif, sans, small cap, and italic, it might be ideally flexible for cartography.

While they're not necessarily made for maps, both Incognito and Zanzibar (by Gabor Kothay) come from the spirit of antique, exotic maps. Incognito is especially cartographic, taking its ornaments and swashes from a book of maps. I'm desperately in love with both of them.

Mister M's picture

Take a look at Gotham Rounded. Just might be what you're looking for. It's new from Hoefler & Frere-Jones at


hn2o's picture

a friend of mine, miriam roettgers, designed a font called "unimap" as her final project at university.

i don't know if it's ready for release yet, but it was designed especially for cartographic purposes. if you're interested, i'm sure you can contact her through her website…

dan_reynolds's picture

These suggestions I'm about to make are all quite old. Nevertheless, they were all designed in part for cartographic purposes, and have been used on countless maps, at least in Germany:




Topografische Zahlentafel

Reed Reibstein's picture

Dan, those cartographic typefaces are really cool, especially Kursivschrift. But why do most of them have such strong obliques and "reverse" obliques (which I've never seen before) -- is it a German thing or a cartographic thing?

dan_reynolds's picture

I think this is a cartographic thing.

In cartography, creating a hierarchy of information is very important. Not-upright text has to instantly visibly different, hence the sharp incline. Reverse inclines allow you to add a third dimension. I suspect that this is ok on maps because the normal, text-based legibility rules we are accustomed to in books do not apply. Perhaps Zachary could say something about this?

A new typeface that also has some elements for cartography is Carl Crossgrove's Beorcana –

Sebastian Nagel's picture

I've been working for some time now on this, which is based on that.

At the moment I'm reviewing it after a half year of letting it alone, redesigned the basic characters. All the others are very inconsistent (best to be seen in texts with ligatures on).

Even if it was finished, it wouldn't be quite useful for modern cartography though... But there was this little voice in my head, that told me to mention it :-)

zforest's picture

Thanks everybody for the responses. This gives me a lot of unfamiliar (to me) faces to look at, and some good ideas for future map designs. I'm especially keen on Incognito, Gotham Rounded, Beorcana, and Roemisch.

hrant's picture

Just wanted to point out an interesting use of Kursivschrift:


Andreas Stötzner's picture

“Reverse Obliques” are traditionally used to indicate waters (rivers, ponds).

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