How to change the design of your locator map

This is part of a five-part series on how to create locator maps:

1 – Introduction: How to create a locator map
2 – Move around the map & set the map size
3 – Add markers
4 – Design the map 
5 – 
Annotate & give your map a key


To create a locator map, go to datawrapper.de and click on "New Map" and then "Locator map". This will open the locator map creation pipeline. Four steps will lead you to your final map: 1: Add markers, 2: Design map, 3: Annotate and 4: Publish. In this article, we will focus on step 2: Design map.

Make important map elements visible with map styles

In step 2 of the map creation process, we first have the option to choose between four map styles. By default, our markers are on the Light map style:

Different map styles bring attention to different elements on the map. To choose the best map style for your markers, just play around. The Light and the Gray map style work well in cities; the Earth style works well if you want to highlight green areas and the Maritime style is great if you want to draw the attention to water areas. 

Below the map style, you can decide which map elements should be visible on your map. By default, labels, roads, water, country borders, green areas and urban areas visible. But maps have different requirements: Maybe you want to make parks more visible in your map, or the lakes and water ways should be the actual focus in your map. 

To create a map that shows only and exactly the elements you require, you can play around with the map styles an turn on and off certain elements.  Note that buildings are only visible starting at zoom level 13, and 3D buildings at zoom level 14. 

Help readers orientate themselves on the map with map extras

Below the map style, you can find the panel for map extras. Here you have the option to turn on a scale bar, a north arrow, and an inset map; and you can highlight a region. Click on the little toggle bar left of the map extra to turn it on or off:

The  scale bar (or bar scale) is a black bar labeled with the represented length in meters or miles, displayed at the bottom left of the map. You can choose if the unit of this scale bar should be km or miles. 

The  north arrow helps your map audience understand where North is :) You probably only need it when you rotate your map. The north arrow is turned on automatically for rotation angles above 40 degrees (and can't be turned off as long as you stay above 40 degrees). 

Sometimes it's useful to  highlight a region in a map, for instance, to emphasize that your map or the story it is included in is mainly talking about that one area. You can select any country, state or city outline using the drop-down menu.

Inset maps show the larger geographic context of your map. If you zoomed into a street corner you can show which part of the city it is in. Choose between a globe and a region (e.g. a country or a city outline). You can decide where the inset map is positioned on your map and how big it should be. 

Localize your map and bring it into your custom design

Below the Map extras, you can find the panel "Design & language":

In the design drop-down menu, you can choose your custom theme if you or your company is a paying user of ours. 

Make sure that the language of your article is chosen in the language drop-down menu. Here you determine in which language your labels will appear. "Germany" becomes "Deutschland" in German, "Allemagne" in French, "Germania" in Italian and "Tyskland" in Dansk. These language settings apply to all labels, e.g. for countries, cities, streets, parks, water areas, and come from OpenStreetMap. 

You're almost done! Now it's time to add a title & description to your map and maybe give further information about your markers with a key. We will cover this in an extra tutorial that you can find here.

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