The Number One Beginner Mapping Mistake

The #1 mistake that a new cartographer makes is assuming the map is finished as soon as it somewhat resembles a map. There’s a perfectly good reason for this: if you are new to cartography it will take a lot of effort to get from the initial map request, to finding the data, massaging the data, and placing that data on the map. Along the way there is also a lot of time spent investigating which tools to use (QGIS, ArcGIS, Illustrator, oh my!), setting one of them up, and figuring out how to use it.

So when a map that seems like it addresses the original criteria is finally created, it is tempting to call it a day. However, stopping at this point typically doesn’t result in anything close to adequate. At this time the new mapper must stand back and take a critical look at the map, move elements, delete elements, add elements, ask for feedback from others, consider other colors and fonts and icons, and so on. This is the real design work.

Remember: the map is not done the minute a map-like object is placed on a page. This is where the design phase begins!

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