What is the Difference Between a Vector and Raster Campus Map Design?

3D campus maps are a great way to give a prospective student a more realistic view of where they might be walking around every day in the near future. But what is different between the designs? To give you a better idea, we’re going to expand a bit on the primary differences between vector and raster designs.

Vector Images

The vector campus map design is one of the most popular and affordable map designs. And here is why.  The vector design uses a restricted amount of colors, 256 or less, thereby significantly scaling down the file size and complexity of the image produced, and thereby also making it a generally more affordable design.

The vector campus map design also uses simpler graphics, achieved with software like Adobe Illustrator. This software doesn’t work with images made of pixels, but rather creates an image or design by setting lines, borders and shapes. Think of it like creating a design with other building blocks.

Also notice that vector maps usually are less detailed, and offer less depth and complexity. But because they are not dependent on pixels, they are more scalable. You can zoom in without losing quality, and that also allows you to put in more text and verbal details.

Our clients tend to find that the vector map is quite customizable ‘in-house’, and can easily be changed as the campus grows or undergoes reconstruction. The vector design is versatile because of its simplicity, small file size and ease of function. It is easily edited, printed, emailed, and opened on a mobile device.  Bottom line it is a very useful format that can be used for any need online or offline.

Raster Images

The raster campus map design, on the other hand, tends to offer a lot more richness and texture. It really is transformed from the original picture of the campus into a map design. This is often done in Adobe Photoshop, where the original picture is rendered into a bitmap, or raster, image.

This means that the final image uses actual pixels. These pixels can be given a great variety of colors and gradients and end up making an image feel much more real, detailed, and close to the original. Our raster campus maps then have an almost photo-realistic feel, with little details like flagpoles, signs, stripes on a road and bodies of water included. This makes them very popular with our clients.

The drawback is that when working with pixels, you create larger files that also take longer to load and can appear pixelated when zooming in. In fact, you’ll notice the maps don’t zoom beyond a certain point. Raster maps are best used on the web, and give the student a great birds-eye view of almost anything they might find on the campus. They are usually not made to easily zoom in and out for detailed needs like print media.  In addition, raster maps are fully customizable by those clients who are comfortable with the software.


Hopefully this was a useful explanation of the two designs.  If you are looking for something with deep detail, raster is going to be your best option.  If you want something more versatile that can also be used for all your offline and print needs, go with vector.  It is always best to know all the needs and requirements of a project going in and even minor details like this can have a huge impact on your final product.

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