The answer come this question might seem obvious. For this reason why invest a whole column on the topic? due to the fact that perhaps it’s not so clear.

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Let’s very first see what dictionary tell us. The Oxford thesaurus of English app defines a cartographer together “a person who color etc or produces maps.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says a cartographer is “one that makes maps.” and the Cambridge Dictionary, also accessible online, says that a cartographer is “someone who makes or draws maps.”

Noticeably, these interpretations all focus on making and drawing. This is probably due to the outmoded process of producing document maps. The chain the production required a whole set of human being who each had actually their own skills. Alongside the cartographer, for instance, was additionally a photographer and a printing press operator.

Interestingly, web-based writes the a cartographer is “a person engaged in cartography, or the production of maps.” This broadens the border of the word, certainly, yet it’s quiet a little vague. What walk “engaged in” mean, exactly?

This reminds me the discussions amongst cartographers that were happening during the 1980s roughly the question of who was the genuine cartographer—the person in the illustration room actually illustration the map or the academic who mostly questioned the map conceptually? as a young college student at the time, the answer to be pretty clean to me: both to be members of the dutch cartographic culture and both involved in the same activities and discussions during meetings, so both would qualify as “real cartographers” due to the fact that both were skilled in cartography.


When the computer system became totally integrated in developing maps in the 1990s, however, the variety of people connected who had various crafts (e.g., the photographer and the printing push operator) decreased. Through this time, the cartographer was doing every the work. So a cartographer ended up being someone v the knowledge and an abilities to design and also make maps for a certain audience.

The integration the the computer in virtually all work-related processes likewise had a few additional effects on cartography. Soon, world who own no cartographic skills whatsoever were able to make maps. Oftentimes, lock were researchers from geography-based techniques who offered GIS come visualize your data ~ above maps. To me, these people were no cartographers yet rather mapmakers, considering they lacked experienced cartographic training.

In current decades, history repeated itself with a slight twist. The climb of the Internet and mobile gadgets has led to a tremendous boost in the creation and also use of maps. Many of those maps room of the where-is-it and also how-do-I-get-there type. But with social media and our growing behavior of share information, over there has also been a surge of people making mashup maps with online mapping tools.

It might be suggested that the experienced cartographic neighborhood shouldn’t be versus the existence of much more maps in the world. However at the same time, no all maps space necessarily good. This is mainly because, first, the mapmakers’ an abilities are not approximately par, and, second, they frequently use the software program defaults, which don’t always produce the most accurate results.


So how deserve to cartographers train mapmakers come do better cartography? sending out them all earlier to school is not really likely. That said, online, open-source education modules it seems ~ to be a viable option. The would additionally be valuable if the easily accessible software far better described that is default settings and even offered suggestions on i beg your pardon map varieties or symbology come use during the mapmaking process.

Additionally, cartographers need to pay attention to the map users—those who make use of a map with an target in mind. We need to ask ourselves questions such as, do they really know what they’re seeing? do they realize just how this particular kind of map works? do they get why the mapmaker made specific design choices? One solution could be to include annotations or analysis instructions come maps come further describe the data.

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Given how dramatically the procedure of mapmaking has changed over the past couple of decades, just how do we define a cartographer now? I would say that a cartographer is someone who unquestionably own the knowledge and skills to design and also make maps, but who is additionally engaged with map users to ensure the his or her maps are placed to suitable use.


Menno-Jan Kraak

Menno-Jan Kraak is professor of geovisual analytics and cartography in ~ the college of Twente in the Netherlands, whereby he has been teaching since 1996. He has a level in cartography native the Faculty the Geographical scientific researches at Utrecht University and received his phd in cartography from Delft college of Technology. Kraak has written generally on cartography and also GIS. His book Cartography: visualization of Spatial Data, written with Ferjan Ormeling, has been translated into 5 languages. He likewise wrote Mapping Time: portrayed by Minard’s Map of napoleon Russian campaign of 1812, released by push in 2014. Kraak is a member that the editorial board of several cartography journals, including the international Journal of Cartography. That is previous president the the worldwide Cartographic Association.


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