I found these wonderful typographic maps on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/SilkeSpingies?section_id=15207850&ref=shopsection_leftnav_1) where city names are placed in the correct location, and font size is based on population size. She has maps of Korea in Korean, Japan in Japanese, Thailand in Thai, etc. Because of this, I don't think it is completely done by hand. I would like to make maps like these for other countries. What would be the easiest way to go about this?

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5 Answers 5


The software to use is Adobe Illustrator. A what I would do is:

  1. First of all create a list of cities and give each the desired size (before you start placing them on the map)
  2. Find a map with all the cities, paste it on your artboard and lock it there.
  3. Start to move your cities and order them around them map, always playing with kerning and the font size that doesn't have to be 100% according to the rule.
  4. Now you have to start faking a bit, otherwise it won't work: fake the locations, sizes, etc. Remember that in the end the overall look is the most important thing.
  5. Unlock the background map and delete it
  • 10
    i.e. "completely done by hand"
    – JohnB
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 13:50
  • +1 If these were easy for anyone to make with a magic script or tool, everyone and their dog would be making these, they'd become a maligned cliche like word clouds ("mullets of the internet"), and Ms Spingies wouldn't be able to make a living by crafting them and selling prints for £25 on Etsy. They require care, skill, craft and good judgement. Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 19:47

There is a very sophisticated InDesign-Script that is based on and inspired by Wordle, called „Wordalizer“. See: http://www.indiscripts.com/category/projects/Wordalizer

While it looks like it cannot do exactly what you need to do (since you need to place specific words at a specific geographic position), maybe it can help you do develop a look or give you a starting point, to work from.


Generally speaking these graphics are generated, not manually designed. Thought I don't have any experience with generating so called "word clouds", I can imagine that it can be achieved by feeding the right script with weights for the terms you'd like to emphasize in the diagram, desired locations and shape it needs to be fit into to.

After some googling:

  1. Wordalizer (indesign) Wordalizer site
  2. Tagcloud script (processing) Tagcloud Github repo
  3. Tagul service at tagul.com

Use a photo mosaic application. For example, I use Shape Collage to load hundreds (if not thousands) of unique, transparent PNGs. In your case, one PNG will be a City Name. Then the software lets you control the shape sizes, randomness, and how close to proximity each shape is (with or without overlapping). The application re-adjusts all the pieces every time you tweak a setting and gives you a preview before the final SAVE.

It takes a handful of tries to get the formula just right.

  • Hello jhurley, welcome to GDSE. I couldn't help but noticing that two of your answers are praising the same software. Although there's nothing wrong with that if the software is a good tool for the job, we do ask that you mention any affiliation you might have. Thanks for your time & effort and keep contibuting!
    – PieBie
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 16:55
  • Coincidentally, it's a good tool for the job. I have no affiliation to the freeware that I mentioned.
    – jhurley
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 17:39
  • In that case, no worries. Keep contributing and have fun on the site. If you like, you can always pop round in Graphic Design Chat to say hello.
    – PieBie
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 8:12

I have done this and uploaded a video You can watch this on how its done https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO2Q0EvKCRQ

  • 2
    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – Luciano
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 11:21

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