Map Communication

Map communication model

Cartography is an art and a science, and has strong links to many fields, from geography to graphic arts. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a map may imbue the character of the authoring cartographer. But how do we explain this graphicacy?

Maps can be built around many models of (re)presentation, depending upon the purpose; they can be geometrically accurate representations of reality or very simplified abstractions. It’s understood that a fundamental tenet of maps is to increase our geographical understanding, but that paradigm is also imbued with theoretical studies from other fields such as visual communication, psychology, semiotics and culture. Moreover, the linear model below, first developed in the mid-1970s, clearly draws upon engineering concepts, referencing signal transmission theories. The diagram above, however, does present a non-linear expression that is perhaps more reflective of real use. Either way, both introduce you to well-established ideas.

Map communication model

Maps are too often assumed to be objective depictions of reality, yet even the most ‘topographic’ of maps can be a sophisticated abstraction (simplified and generalised landscape) reflective of the cultural context it occupies. Cartography is about envisioning spatially-based data, revealing patterns of tangible and intangible phenomena—it’s a more involved design practice than many assume.

“Far from holding up a simple mirror of nature that is true or false, maps re-describe the world—like any other document—in terms of relations of power and of cultural practices, preferences, and priorities.”

—JB Harley

There are also useful ways to expand these simplified notions of the transmission of ‘message’ and the iterative nature of map reading, by considering the third dimension (below). This form, based upon MacEachren’s Cartography ³, fleshes out the contemporary engagement we have with maps. It is perhaps more reflective of the range and types of mapping we now engage with.

Cartography Cubed

There are, of course, numerous ways we can think about the communication process in cartography (mapping), but the the diagrams here hopefully provide a quick primer on how to frame that thinking. There are other articles on cartography here, including Cartography and Elements of a Map.

May, 2019

Map Communication

Map communication model

Cartography is an art and a science, and has strong links to many fields, from geography to graphic arts. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that a map may imbue the character of the authoring cartographer. [ … ]

Elements of a Map

Elements of a map

When discussing the fundamental elements of a map we are more often than not referring to the visual presentation, or composition, of the map. [ … ]

Writing a Mapping Brief

CARTOGRAPHERS (map designers) work like many others engaged in design fields—they need clear briefs. Not only does a clear brief help the cartographer, but more importantly, it helps you structure your thoughts and clarify objectives. [ … ]

Sketchfab

I’ve posted this article for no more reason than to demonstrate one of the best and easiest to use browser-based 3D viewers available, not to mention an excellent resource of 3D models—Sketchfab. [ … ]

Illustreets

No sooner had I picked up on one new online mapping framework, the OS Open Zoomstack, than another appears! Illustreets follows the usual formula, but with each new framework that gets released [ … ]

OS Open Zoomstack

The world of online mapping frameworks moves apace! Now, even the monolithic mapping organisation, the Ordnance Survey, is involved. In July, they launched OS Open Zoomstack, providing vector tiles of their open data themes. [ … ]

Visual Thinking

Having been embedded within graphic design and cartography for 30 years now, one recurring disappointment for me is the amount of ‘new’ conceptual and theoretical thinking, and object creation, that really is not new. [ … ]

kepler.gl

Uber—who would thought—have released kepler.gl, an open-source geospatial toolbox. It’s designed to provide the easiest way of visualising geospatial data and gaining useful insights. [ … ]

Cartograms

Not to be confused with Mapbox’s nonsensical hijacking of the term for creating colour styles, cartograms are extraordinary map types. The relaunch of Worldmapper in April 2018 celebrates this form of mapping. [ … ]

Google Earth

When it was first released 16 years ago, it was an incredible virtual experience to be able to travel around the globe and look at anywhere in a level of detail previously not seen, and it still is today! [ … ]

National Geographic

Since the very first issue in 1888, the National Geographic magazine has been the benchmark for quality researched articles supported by well-crafted graphics. [ … ]

Heightfield 3D Model

There is always an aspect of work that emerges out of error, experimentation and/or serendipity. [ … ]

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