Sanborn Map Fonts & Tutorials

In 2016 with everything done for us at the touch of a button it’s not much of a surprise that hand crafted graphic design has managed to come back in such a big way. It’s ‘bespoke-ness’ has become a status symbol of sorts and it’s evident, particularly in typography that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. McDonalds have even jumped on the bandwagon using ‘Wisdom/Thirsty’ (a retro script font), for their new ‘Create Your Taste’ campaign. So what are the cool designers left to do..? Go deeper. And the deepest you can go when it comes to retro hand crafted commercial typography would have to be that of great Sanborn Map Company.

Printing their first map of the Boston area in 1867 Sanborn Map Company quickly expanded out across the United States to become the largest map company in the world and the typography used in the headings of these maps were symbolic of their quality and detail.


Typified by unique and abstract font choices, fine line work and creative layouts, Sanborn Maps are to me the pinnacle of commercial typography from just about any period. Check out this beautiful Tegan & Sarah poster or this intricate John Mayer album cover as modern examples of this amazing style.

With a resurgence in popularity for this kind of typography in a varied range of industries I thought I’d put together some resources you could use to create some work like this for yourself or for a client.


So, lets start with some ready made fonts but keep in my mind they will only get you so far and to create something as detailed and spectacular as the examples above will still require a lot of work. It’s fun work though (if you’re into that kind of thing).


So this is the tricky part but even though they’re quite time intensive, these tutorials break down a step by step method to get the desired Sanborn look. Check em out…

I hope this has been helpful to those of you looking for some help creating or researching this stuff. For links to even more examples of Sanborn Map Company typography click here.

Peace. Eddie.