Archive for April, 2013

Everyone Can Be A Cartographer Now

A recent tweet claimed, “With open data, everyone can be a cartographer” (@onlmaps).

Great! And also, oh no.

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To Cartography Or Not To Be

I’m not sure if we exist, you and I.

Before you get worried that this blog is turning existential, let me explain. The other day Fast Company posted a short article about Stamen Design. The post starts with, “We used to have cartographers.”*

Excuse me? Let me show you some Maps Behaving Badly and then we’ll talk about why there is still a strong need for cartographers and the cartographic skill that is espoused in this blog. As a matter of fact, there is still a cartography profession, and some of us are, believe it or not, much sought after.

Despite the fact that we know that our profession is thriving, expanding, and changing at great velocity these days, there are still a lot of people who are confused about cartography, what it is, and whether or not cartographers still exist.

Before getting too down about it, though, ponder a term that the GIS and cartography community doesn’t use much but that, if employed more widely, would help the cause:

Digital Cartographer**

For those who are making webmaps on a regular basis, adopting the title Digital Cartographer could rid yourself of the need to go on, ad infinitum, about what GIS means, or what webmapping is, or what geoanalytics are, while you futily try to explain to a layperson just what it is exactly that you do for a living. I think the title Digital Cartographer can stand for itself and be readily understood by most people. Solution?

*Hat tip Andy Woodruff
**It’s a little disconcerting that the first time I ever heard this term, or perhaps the first time I ever took note of it, was in a tweet by the comedian Rob Delaney.

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Label Placement On Maps

We’ve talked before about label placement but here I wanted to present a map with many label placement tips all on the same image. This map is only loosely based on real geography and is meant for educational purposes. It is shareable under the creative commons license CC BY.

Let me know if there is anything you’d like added or if you disagree with any of the placements. We all know there is room for ambiguity in label placement rules. We also know that try as we might, geography will sometimes get in the way of our best label placing intentions.


Penning Titles

*****Note: This was originally posted on 10/31/2010. I’m going to start repeating some of the earlier posts on occasion. The Colors For Maps booklet referred to in this post, is, of course, finished. You can find it and it’s companion ebook here. Those two ebooks are now part of a real-book as well. Link to that is to the right.*****

The titles of maps, presentations, and papers have many flaws.* Does anyone stop to think more than two seconds about the title of their work? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. The major flaws in titles these days are twofold:

They don’t tell you about the work


They are boring

The problem with the first flaw is that you waste half your audience’s time because they thought they were going to look at, listen to, or read something different than what is actually being presented. Also, half the people who might have been interested are not paying attention because the title doesn’t tip off the subject matter adequately.

The second flaw is an aesthetic issue. A boring title does not necessarily guarantee a low audience count but a very interesting title, without a doubt, will increase the audience count. This is probably caused by the inordinately large number of instances of boring titles that audiences are bombarded with, making the audience somewhat immune to them but also thereby making the interesting ones stand out all the better.

A boring title is not necessarily bland. It might contain too much jargon or too many words, for example. A simple title that gets straight to the point is not necessarily boring. Some of my titles that I am particularly keen on include:

Remember, a good title leaves no doubt as to what the content is about. A great title hooks the audience. Have you heard any good titles lately?

*I know someone is going to think that papers in journals can’t possibly adhere to these guidelines. I really wish journal papers could have more interesting titles. Don’t you?

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