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Developing Confidence in Your Maps Through Personal Critique

By Justin Sorensen

Maps, whether they be interactive applications or visual graphics, have the ability to express large amounts of information to viewers in ways text alone cannot. More than simple points, lines, and polygons overlaid on a model of the Earth’s surface, maps share and derive information hidden behind the data to answer important geographical questions including who, what, when, where, how, and sometimes why.

However, simply plotting locations onto a map is not enough. What may be intuitive or simple to understand for you may not necessarily be so for your audience. Developing a connection with your audience is the goal of each map being created, allowing you to “share the story” behind the data and inspire or evoke interest in the topic.

With a variety of tools and resources for accomplishing this goal, you may consider utilizing a personal critique checklist for evaluating your map and how the information is being presented to your audience. A personal critique checklist (useful to newcomers and experienced cartographers alike) assists in identifying what works well and what needs improvement within your map prior to sharing it with others.

One such checklist comes from ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.) – the global market leader within the GIS industry. The ESRI Map Evaluation Guidelines checklist provides a walk through of important questions to ask about your map including cartographic requirements, compilation and design, map elements, and layout.

Developing confidence in your maps is something that takes time and practice. Utilizing a personal critique checklist shouldn’t be viewed as a tool for negatively viewing your map, but rather as a tool for examining your map in a new perspective, allowing you to make good use of its resources and build the map around the story being shared.

Until next time…Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
ProtoSpace / Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

Photo by Majestic Lukas on Unsplash

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