Hand-drawn Maps Project: The World As It Isn't

By Maptia, Co-founder Team Share

From sketches on the back of a napkin to beautiful hand-illustrated posters, subjective and personal maps often convey the emotions and quirks of places much better than maps that aim for an accurate and objective portrayal of the world.  Most maps are designed so that you can find your way and view the world as it is, but sometimes the most delightful and interesting maps are created when we use them to tell stories of the the world as it isn't.

With this in mind, today we are starting a new hand-drawn maps project called 'The World As It Isn't' to explore and collect people's unique perspectives on the places they know and love.

Read on to see the Maptia team's hand-drawn map of where we live and work in Morocco and find out how you can contribute your own map.

The miracle of your mind is that you can see the world as it isn’t.
— Kathryn Schlz in her TED talk 'on being wrong'

The Story of Our Hand-drawn Map

Four months ago, in order to save on costs while we focused on building the first version of Maptia, our whole team relocated to Taghazout - a sleepy Moroccan village just a few metres from the Atlantic ocean - you can read the full story here. This little village has now become a home for us. On a rare cloudy Sunday afternoon, we sat down together and sketched our map of Taghazout. This meant ignoring certain geographical certainties and often the lie of the land, and instead focusing on the quirky little places we have got to know - on the sights, smells, sounds, and activities that make up our personal experience of this place. Ella, our unconventional intern, then turned our scribblings into a colourful, illustrated map of Taghazout, which you can see below (or you can click here to explore a bigger version).

Below is a close-up of our map in which you can see the Maptia HQ. We affectionately named our HQ 'Casa Maptia' when we were located in the spanish-speaking city of Santiago in Chile for six months last year.

And here is our initial scrappy sketch, and then Ella's pen illustrations before the colourful inks were added.


Now it's your turn to get creative...

Step 1 | Imagine Your Place

It could be anywhere in the world, but ideally somewhere that you have a relationship with. Somewhere you feel at home, or somewhere something meaningful happened to you. Imagine yourself walking down a familiar path or at the beginning of a journey. What do you notice? What stands out for you? Are there any distinctive smells or interesting sounds? In short, what exists that you wouldn't find on a traditional map? 

Step 2 | Draw a Map

Put down a sheet of paper, pick up your pencil (or pen) of choice and begin. You might surprise yourself as your pencil sets sail across your paper, as you rediscover places you didn't know were stored in the corners of your imagination. Fill the outlines of the map with the unique things that mean something to you. Tell your story of a place.

N.B. Prior experience is not necessary, neither is an extraordinary level of detail or coloured inks - you don't have to draw Middle Earth. In fact, simpler maps often tell clearer and more interesting stories. Feel free to use the back of a napkin or 'mapkin' (please excuse the pun) and sketch your map in just five minutes. What matters is that it represents your perspective of the place, your personal geography.

Step 3 | Send it Over

Done? Now scan or photograph your map along with a description (this can be anything from a couple of words to a fully fledged story) then send it over to us at hello@maptia.com or tweet it to @Maptia.

We're really excited to see what you come up with and will be featuring all the maps we receive on our blog.

Also, if you know any other map lovers who might enjoy the idea of contributing their own hand-drawn map, then please use this link to send them a tweet and share this page with them!


Gallery of Your Awesome Hand-drawn Maps

Map of Winchcombe in the UK by Katie Bridget Morgan

Map of Winchcombe in the UK by Katie Bridget Morgan


Bonus Inspiration

Here are a few examples of delightful hand-drawn maps that have been used as a medium for visual storytelling.

1. Anne D.'s Skillshare maps created by her students. Anne is a cartographic wizard who has taught hundreds of students the art of map-making via her classes on Skillshare. Her students' maps range from day trips in Amsterdam to a morning commute drawn on a banana!

2. Maps of Manhattan by Becky Cooper in which she considered what it took to make a map that told an honest story of a place. The German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche said that, 'There is only a perspective seeing... the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our 'concept' of this thing, our 'objectivity', be' and in much the same way, Becky sought out 'many eyes' to observe Manhattan. The result is a heartwarming project which Maria Popova described on Brainpickings as a 'Love letter in subjective cartography'. See this video to find out more.

3.  Simon Garfield's Maps of the World in which he has curated interesting, beautiful and quirky maps according to some of the best illustrators and storytellers in the world. In the preface Anthonis Antoniou writes, "Cartography can be an incredible form of escapism, as maps act as proxies for experiences, real or fabricated" and Simon's book contains some of the finest examples of creative cartography that we have ever seen.

4. They draw and travel by Nate and Salli who are a brother and sister design illustration team. Every map on their site is one-of-a-kind, highlighting off-the-beaten path sites and activities that are local favorites, it's a real source of inspiration!

5. Our own 'Mapspiration' board on Pinterest where we have curated a whopping 582 pins of maps... yes, we are slightly addicted!


We hope you have fun making your maps and we can't wait to see what you come up with! Click here to write a tweet about this post.


Magnificent Maps and Cartographic Curiousities - a visual feast of 8 shamelessly subjective maps we loved.

Rolf Potts in Paris - we waxed lyrical about his vagabonding misadventures and flâneuring in Paris.


Date added
Location taghazout, Morocco