When do you call yourself a cartographer?

Q) When do you call yourself a cartographer?

A) When you

  • Spend sufficient time on revising that it is as if your reputation and your finances are at stake (whether they are or not).
  • Study modern and historic maps on a regular basis for both general insights into the creative process and practical ideas about color, font, layout, and symbolization.
  • Begin with the design idea and then look to see how it can be achieved.
  • Constantly dabble in or otherwise familiarize yourself with new technologies that can expand your mapping repertoire.
  • Keep track of new data that can support projects in the pipeline and beyond.
  • Learn to decouple the data from the design at the end stages of a cartography endeavor on one-off design-heavy masterpieces (e.g., use Illustrator or Inkscape).
  • Create and follow a shop book that contains typefaces, color palettes, and feature size, shape, and width guidelines. Examples of maps that follow common guidelines include most of the largest news outlets including the New York Times and The Economist. (There are exceptions.)
  • Realize that in cartography there are exceptions to the rules. There are always exceptions.
  • Understand that cartographic feature symbology defaults are almost never adequate from a design standpoint (e.g., what size should the points in a user-supplied dataset be? It depends on the number of points, zoom level, background map, and so on.) Someone will probably come up with an elegant algorithm to solve this in the near future. But until then generalized defaults have to suffice.
  • Compile a portfolio of your work and have hundreds of finished maps to choose from.
  • Know that finished maps are both personal to you, and personal to your map readers.

4/24/2015 Edited to add twitter commentary from ever faithful readers:




As a result of all this I’m going to add one more bullet point:

  • You can call yourself a cartographer when you are a NUT.

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