How Much Critique Is Normal?

I gave a talk at Colorado State University yesterday titled “Maps That Show Off: Communicating Our Work Through Cartography.” Part of my talk focused on the importance of incorporating critique into your map design process.

During the question/answer session Amy asked me how typical it is to get critique from my clients. I told her that it is fairly common – especially to get critiqued on things like color, which everyone seems to have an opinion on. I’d like to elaborate on this just a little bit.

First off, every client is different. I’ve had some clients who give me free reign and rarely have comments over things like color or other design aspects – though they might want an underlying data layer changed, they won’t get involved with the design. These people may figure that they’ve hired a professional to do this, so why spend their valuable time changing things?

Other people like to have more involvement. For those people it might be nice to offer several solutions at the end to choose from. Usually, though, my solution is to involve these people with design decisions from the beginning. For example, if I am having some trouble putting all the elements onto one map while maintaining readability, I might mention that this is something I’m working on. This allows them to be a part of the overall process, see where the end product came from, etc.

I am fortunate to have some very long term clients. With long-terms clients there might be a project where they want more involvement in the look/feel of a map while on other projects they simply delegate the whole thing to me. It really depends on their outcome expectations and time availability.

In general, I very much encourage feedback from anyone I’ve designed a map for (and from clients for whom I’m doing analysis – which is, after all, the main focus of my firm).

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