Studying the earth’s geography is a thing of beauty. Many geographers spent countless hours mapping locations, land areas, seas, and other geographic features. After that, they implement these features in a sizeable map scale on the maps for people to utilize during navigation.
We truly appreciate these efforts, as these physical maps make our day-to-day navigation possible. Indeed, it is incredibly beneficial when users utilize different map types for personal or business use. One of particular interest is the reference map.
This map type has made the earth’s navigation possible throughout the ages. This article discusses what a reference map is as well as its purpose, examples, and types. It also compares this map type with thematic maps.
What Is a Reference Map?
Contrary to flat earth conspiracy theories, the Earth is indeed round. However, the Earth is not a perfect shape. Due to its imperfect sphericity, geographers approach map designs with the highest degree of accuracy.
Thus, the design and development of reference maps came into existence. But out of curiosity, you might ask, “what is a reference map?” and what features does it provide when used in navigation?
A reference map is a map that accurately displays general information regarding geographic locations. This information can include natural features like mountains, terrain, rivers, oceans, islands, etc. It also provides political features such as country names, urban areas, transportation routes, and more.
It is a general-purpose map. Many navigators appreciate its simplicity in providing the necessary details to reach their destinations. In today’s technology-driven society, many navigation apps utilize these maps’ schematics to provide precise geographic details of the earth.
3 Examples of Reference Maps
A reference map can help users navigate and explore new uncharted areas. They take note of physical and political features that still exist or have become relics of the past. Let’s take a look at three examples of reference maps.
- Imago Mundi
The Imago Mundi dates back to the 6th century in the time of the Babylonians. Surprisingly, this reference map focused more attention on Babylon, the world power at the time, the Euphrates River, and detailed other surrounding cities. Many cartographers still refer to the Imago Mundi as they develop new 21st-century maps.
Another fascinating example that made navigation possible is Mercator. Gerdus Mercator, a Flemish mapmaker, created this map with some interesting features. He introduced Mercator projections which provided similar shapes and directions of land areas.
Mercator provided the physical and political features of the Old World, especially Europe. It also included the Americas, capturing Columbus’ voyage, and the phantom continents surrounding the North and South poles.
However, a significant limitation of Mercator is how its projection lines distorted the sizes of land areas. Thus, many European countries appeared larger than many African countries, which is not the case.
- Google Maps
Today, typical examples of maps are the world atlas, National Geographic maps, and topographic maps. However, Google Maps is an excellent and reliable one that users can utilize digitally.
Google Maps is available for PC and mobile platforms. It provides physical and political features of the world with high accuracy and precision. It also features automated navigation guides to use in hands-free mode.
5 Types of Reference Maps
Reference maps offer simplicity, preciseness, and accuracy in mapping out land and sea features of the Earth. However, this accuracy is open to debate over time due to political, climatic, and geographic changes.
These factors have rendered several types outdated. However, they still provide historical details of the old world, thus preserving history for future generations. Now, let’s consider five types of reference maps that are practical and helpful for easy navigation worldwide.
Reference Map #1: Physical Maps
Physical maps are reference maps that highlight the physical features within an area. These features include rivers, lands, vegetation, deserts, terrain, etc. These maps are practical as they help urban planning, travel preparations, and educational purposes.
Reference Map #2: Road Maps
Road maps are highly detailed, displaying interconnecting road networks to drivers. They include highway numbers, railway crossings, interstate routes, boundaries, etc. However, due to urban development, road maps may become obsolete.
Interestingly, our smartphones now have popular navigation maps like Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps that provide real-time road networks. However, road maps are worth having in your car trunk if you drive across the country without an internet connection.
Reference Map #3: Political Maps
Political maps are another reference map that displays continents, countries, states, and districts. Over the centuries, political maps have helped assert local and international border claims. They also provide trade routes and unclaimed borders for political factions to reclaim and assert dominance.
Reference Map #4: Topographic Maps
Another type of reference map is a topographic map, which displays the elevations of areas in the world. Topographic maps often show contour lines or color gradients to connect regions with similar elevations. They detail natural features such as hills, volcanos, canyons, and valleys.
Topographic maps are great for natural resource exploration, extraction, urban planning, hiking trails, etc.
Reference Map #5: Street Maps
Street maps are popular reference maps that people use for daily navigation. These maps provide detailed guides of the surrounding area, which helps you to navigate and discover new landmarks easily. They offer road networks, individual buildings, bridges, and layouts of your destination.
The accuracy of street maps is second to none, thanks to GPS satellites providing real-time updates to users. So, suppose you do not own a physical street map. In that case, you can utilize popular navigation apps to provide a street map of your location. They can pinpoint your location and provide you with the best route to get to your destination.
Reference Map vs. Thematic Map: Know the Difference
Map developers try adding complexity to their map designs by utilizing reference and thematic maps. Now that you understand that reference maps provide an overview of a particular geographic location, let’s consider thematic maps.
Thematic maps are specific; they deliver information detailed to a particular geographic location. Hence, thematic maps are entirely different from reference maps. How so? Let’s consider a few comparisons of reference maps vs. thematic maps.
Reference maps encompass general geographic features of the earth, ranging from physical to political features. However, thematic maps focus on a specific interesting feature concerning the distribution of certain elements across the Earth.
On the flip side, thematic maps are specific in providing information peculiar to a geographic area. They can feature weather reports, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), mortality and birth rates, and literacy rates of such regions.
Reference maps are broad general maps that users can use to access information regarding the distribution of many landmark features on the earth. It can include hospitals, police departments, restaurants, business buildings, etc.
In contrast, thematic maps are usually based on statistics. This is because users focus on how landmark features are distributed among different classes of citizens in that area. As such, people can infer from these thematic maps how they can provide essential services to households needing them.
When considering some keynote features of reference and thematic maps, you realize they can complement each other. However, they are not mutually exclusive. For instance, reference maps could provide the distribution of restaurants across the United States. However, thematic maps will present statistical data regarding the kinds of people that use these restaurants in the country.
4 Types of Thematic Maps
Unlike reference maps, thematic maps are maps with a specific theme and contain remarkable visuals for the user to understand. There are four main types of thematic maps. They are choropleth, graduated symbols, cartograms, and isoline maps.
- Choropleths are the most common thematic maps as they utilize different shading colors to highlight a particular geographic location feature. These features are color-graded in percentages, quantities, and densities.
- Cartograms increase or reduce a geographic location based on a particular feature. A noteworthy example is when cartograms make countries with higher population densities bigger and those with smaller populations. So, cartograms are independent of land size but depend on the data represented.
- Isoline maps display physical features that are peculiar to a geographic area. They include elevation details, weather, temperature, and pressure systems. They are useful for analyzing a vast land mass without borders.
- Graduated symbols utilize varying symbol sizes of data. They are similar to choropleth, but there are different symbols for the data categories. An example is the United States election. It is common knowledge that each state will have varying voter turnout. Via graduated symbols and data collected at the election. You can actualize how voters in a particular state voted for their preferred candidate.
Conclusion: Create Your Preferred Maps for Your Business
What an insightful read! This post has undoubtedly broadened your horizons regarding reference maps, their uses, and their types. We have also discussed the fundamental differences between reference and thematic maps. You must consider these two map types carefully and determine which applies to your business needs.
What if you search for the correct map that fits your business profile? Well, Mapize is here to provide fast and affordable mapping solutions. With its robust AI system, it can provide the necessary interactive maps that are visually and aesthetically pleasing to your audience.
With Mapize, you don’t require coding experience to develop your custom map. Mapize provides several offerings to ensure you get the mapping experience for you and your customers. Try Mapize out now and build your first map for free.