Learning to "See" Geography
Reading topographic maps requires a special type of visual literacy.

If you don't understand the visual language, these maps are a series of random and squiggly concentric circles. They remain a puzzle until someone explains the mental model and unlocks the visual code

Then, it's as if a gateway of meaning is opened. You are able to mentally translate the curved concentric lines into the 3-D contours of a geographic landscape.

Many of us learn to "read" topographic maps long after we have learned to read and write. I've always wondered if the "aha" experience of learning to read these maps was similar to our first experience of recognizing how letters and words worked -- a moment, of course, long forgotten in childhood memories and too early to put into words.
Welcome to my digital postcard filled with 3 things related to Visual IP*. It's designed to quickly inform, then get you on your way. In each issue you'll find an inspiring quote, an image, and a link to an essay or resource.

* Visual IP (intellectual property) = proprietary frameworks, diagrams, and drawings based on your ideas, which help you explain, influence, and persuade

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"I compare a lot of life to looking at a map through a straw. The less ability you have to see life in a humorous way, the smaller the straw is that you're looking at the map of life. You're not looking at the whole picture. You can't see the whole topography without it, and it can help you to make better choices."
― Reggie Watts

Reading Contour Lines on Topographic Maps

This simple visual teaches how to read a topographic map without any written explanation. I find it a marvel of communicating a fairly complex mental construct. It's an excerpt of an image from Bjorn Kjellstrom's orienteering handbook, Be Expert with Map & Compass. (And hat tip to @fanmaps on Instagram, where I first discovered it.)

Actual topographic maps require a bit more decoding to take full advantage of their visual cues. For example, contour lines that are closer together indicate a steeper slope, while those spaced farther apart show a more gradual one. Every fifth line on a topographic map is generally a bit thicker, and has a number on it showing the elevation

Of course, most printed maps have been replaced by real-time GPS data on our mobile devices. Even with the immediacy and convenience of digital mapping technology, I still find topographic maps to be beautiful artifacts of visual communication.

USGS Topographical Maps from Nat Geo

The US Geological Survey is the science agency for the United States' Department of the Interior. They're also the country's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency. They know maps, and mapping technology!

As the government repository of maps, their holdings are vast. Visitors to their site can access both current and historical topographic maps, some dating back to the earliest days of the agency's founding in 1879. Want to see a map of your neighborhood from a hundred years ago? It's a few clicks away. More current mapping information is available as detailed data sets.

For those seeking to print USGS topo maps at home, National Geographic has linked to the government mapping data and offers a free service. They also offer printed topo maps, a favorite of hikers and other explorers of the natural world.

Authority By Design course coming in April 2022

My new online course and community, Authority By Design, will be open for registration soon. This 3-week cohort-based class is for those who want to increase their visibility, credibility, and revenue. So if you're a consultant, coach, creator, speaker, or other professional who makes your living selling services, this course is for you.

You'll walk away with a portfolio of proprietary frameworks and diagrams and other tools of visual persuasion that you can put to use in your business immediately. And yes, you can have zero art skills and still take part!

The Pilot cohort will be limited to a handful of participants who would like to get advance access to the methodologies and resources of the course. They'll also be my co-creators, as I refine the course based on their input. All Pilot cohort participants will have lifetime access to the course, and can join any future cohort at no additional charge.

I'll be sharing more information here soon. You can also sign up for my "Keep Me Posted" email list. (And for readers on my Authority By Design Feedback Team, an update is coming soon!)

Thanks for joining me. May you explore some new visual terrain this week.

As always, if there are others you think might enjoy these types of ideas and resources, please forward this on.

Until next time: Make something happen!

PS: Was this email forwarded to you? You can sign up to get your own copy on my website.
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