Do paper maps matter in the digital age?

Some may say that print is dead, but the popularity of the written word remains. Arrive in any city and you’ll find a plethora of printed maps guiding you to the best places to eat and drink, and the most popular attractions in town. 

With the rise of smartphones, it’s easy to assume that the era of the paper map is over. That ‘digital over print’ attitude is what Assistant Professor at NYU, Meredith Broussard refers to as “technochauvinism”, a viewpoint used to create an occasionally harmful bias for digital over any other kind of interface. 

Luckily, research tells us there are distinct advantages to using print maps in this digital age. Print maps help you acquire deep knowledge faster and more efficiently. In experiments, people who read on paper consistently demonstrate better reading comprehension than people who read the same material on a screen. 


From a tourism perspective, the benefit of having your business listed on a map means existing amidst a thriving ecosystem of the visitor industry. A physical map encourages people to discover other places on the way – so an A to B journey plotted on a digital device that would normally take place without any stops, now allows the visitor to stumble upon hidden gems along the way. A meander down a laneway, a stroll in a nearby park, or a snack at a neighbourhood café all lead to a richer visitor experience. 

Presence on a map also puts the destination in perspective to other neighbouring points or areas of interests. For example, if you’re making a journey from Fitzroy to the CBD, the physical map is likely to inspire you to stop in Carlton along the way. Studies have proven that physically tracing a path from one point to another, helps with gaining deeper geographical knowledge which in turn helps with navigation, as well as a better understanding of culture and history. 

Similarly, having public transport options outlined on a map helps with the planning of the visitor experience. It allows the user to plot their journey, along with their pitstops and gives rise to the curation of their personalised travel itinerary.

Melbourne is all about interacting with the visitor – maps make people talk, ask for directions, and helps shape their travel journey. Melbourne Airport 2018 Volunteer of the Year, Akbar Hessami, echoes these sentiments: “The Official Melbourne Map is useful because visitors can see where their hotel is located and how they can travel to the city attractions.”

References: Why paper maps still matter in the digital age – The Conversation

By Manveen Maan