Cartography, all About Choices

Here’s where I trot out, in casual-speak, some stuff about cartographic design. Some of your main choices in cartographic design are:

1) Projection (or not): Choice of projection. Do you want something equatorial that’s nice in the middle but hugely distorted at the poles? Do you want to omit projection and scale altogether such as for a diagrammatic map (e.g., transit map)? How about using my personal favorite: the winkel triple? Sometimes humor is the best way to figure out what projection to use. I’m kidding on that last one.

2) Colors: Are you going to be a neogeocarto and go for a dark background like grayish black for the continents and a saturated blue for the oceans, like the trend has been for a few years now? Do you have a lot of features to pile on the map, necessitating a subdued, light, background? Do you need to add some realism in there? If so, maybe you should take a few photos of spots with the features that you’re mapping so you can grab the colors off of those. Color can make or break a map…take your time and don’t be afraid of trial and error.

3) Typography: Do you need an old-timey feel? Maybe baskerville. A really old-timey feel? Try some calligraphy. Neat and modern? Helvetica. Interesting? comic sans. (Just kidding! Don’t get on my case.) Really nifty for a poster title? yanone kaffeesatz – it’s free. Do you have to create a feature label hierarchy? Definitely choose something that has a lot of flavors such as true bold and italics, small caps, etc.

4) Placement: The act of putting things on your map is hugely difficult. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. If you are making a trail map, don’t get caught up in the roads, topo lines, bathroom locations, and such. Sure, include them, but never forget that those trails MUST stand out from everything else. It’s even more difficult when you’re using a background map service like Google Maps or OSM that has it’s own hierarchy that you can’t do much about. Placement of all the supporting information is difficult too. Why is it that I would never generally tell someone to put a scalebar in the upper-right of a map, but yet just the other day I saw this done quite effectively? It all depends on everything else you’ve got going on in that presentation.

5) Catch-All: Perspective and 3D versus 2D; choropleth versus leader lines that connect to a chart; infographic versus full-on map; showing your map reader what you want them to see or making them figure it out; small-multiples vs. digital interactive vs. animation…
Yep, there are a lot of choices here.

And finally, the biggie:

Invent something new or go with tried and true?

  1. #1 by Daniel Uthman (@DanUthman) on April 3, 2012 - 9:03 pm

    Nice summary of fundamental #cartography choices from

  2. #2 by @Geocrusader80 on April 4, 2012 - 11:22 am

    Cartography is all About Choices via @PertersonGIS

  3. #3 by Matthew Winslett (@mwinslettTX) on April 5, 2012 - 10:21 pm

    Cartography, all About Choices Good advice!!

  4. #4 by @mwinslettTX on April 5, 2012 - 10:24 pm

    Cartography– all About Choices // good advice #cartography

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