Very simply, we want to create an awe-inspiring map of the USA. This will be for a 500-piece puzzle so our target age range is 10 and up. So I do not want child-based narrations (no cartoon-like stuff).
I want something that an adult would look at and say 'wow, that is cool looking'. If the cool part makes it even more education, all the better.
To make it easy and quick on you, you only need to do a few states to get the point across. The whole USA doesn't need to be finished so long as you finish it when you are announced the winner.
A few simple requirements.
-we have to maintain the educational part, so we can't change borders
-we would like distinction in color or contrast between states.
-we can't use licensed images like NCAA or NBA, but you could include other informational things in a state.
Other than that, you are free to be as creative as you want.
I have attached a couple Illustrator map files for you to use as a starting base. You will notice that a couple of them have topographical look without distinction in colors between the states which wouldn't qualify for my 2nd requirement. Just thought there might be a way to merge the two (political/topographical) maps together as an example of one idea. I already tried this myself and couldn't make it look that great. So don't count on this being the winning idea, but then i am pretty lousy with design so you may have more luck. These Illustrator files have many layers. Feel free to eliminate all the minutia that doesn't add to your look like minor cities, rivers, small lakes, all roads, etc. I would like to keep state names, capitals, major cities, state/country borders, and major lakes as a bare minimum.
I have also attached one example of one that I kind of liked. It is an antique map, which i believe it is a cool look. It is in the right direction as far as aesthetic, but obviously not unique since it has been around 1000s of years.