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Thread: 5 Principles of Cartographic Design

  1. #1
      ravells is offline
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    Post 5 Principles of Cartographic Design


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    Ravells.
    Thought that I would add my two cents worth since it seems that no one else is willing.

    I think that the post is spot on. And I think that each of the "Principles" warrants its own thread and discussion, for those so inclined.

    But, might I offer a thought as to why no one has responded before now? I think that the "Five Principles" are a high-level philosophy governing map making--and they are absolutely correct, as far as my limited brain can fathom when thinking about it. Because, however, most of us are struggling cartographers still learning our craft (and always trying to learn more, with different techniques, using new software, and trying to emulate "that cool map that was posted last night"), we aren't yet ready for a philosophy of map making. We are still at Maslow's survival level of mapmaking vice the self-actualization at top of his pyramid. Put another way, we are still learning how to feed ourselves with the spoon, vice asking ourselves if the spoon is really there.

    With all that being said, I am more than ready to engage in a discussion of any of those principles.

    Again, great post. Philosophy of anything is interesting.

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      ravells is offline
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    Oh don't worry, everyone ignores me! (sob sob!)

    I had forgotten that I had posted this. As the weblink itself has been taken from a listserve post and I do not believe that there are any copyright issues, I reproduce it below in case the link gets lost over time:

    I think that what we tend to do at the Guild is to emulate maps that we like the look of (well, I do anyway!) but these principles do go a long way to assisting a cartographer in designing a map using a new vocabulary of visual language.

    Ravs

    PRINCIPLES OF CARTOGRAPHIC DESIGN
    This was posted to the Society of Cartographer's listserv, 26 November 1999.


    "We all know that there are good maps and bad maps, the problem is defining which is which. The reason for this is that whenever we discuss the principles of map design, we have to admit that we don't know what they are.
    The following principles were presented to the recent British Cartographic Society Design Group meeting at Glasgow University. They did not go unchallenged.
    Principles were differentiated from rules such as those for placement of type. Whilst contributing to the design process, rules are not principles."
    THREE STATEMENTS
    - The purpose of design is to focus the attention of the user
    - The Principles of Cartographic Design are Timeless, the Results are not
    - The Rules of Cartographic Design can be taught and learnt, principles and concepts have to be acquired

    THE FIVE PRINCIPLES OF MAP DESIGN
    1. Concept before Compilation
      Without a grasp of concept, the whole of the design process is negated. The parts embarrass the whole. Once concept is understood, no design or content feature will be included which does not fit it. Design the whole before the part. Design comes in two stages, concept and parameters, and detail in execution. Design once, devise, design again. User first, user last. What does the user want from this map? What can the user get from this map? Is that what they want? If a map were a building, it shouldn't fall over.
    2. Hierarchy with Harmony
      Important things must look important, and the most important thing should look the most important. "They also serve who only stand and wait." Lesser things have their place and should serve to complement the important. From the whole to the part, and all the parts, contributing to the whole. Associated items must have associated treatment. Harmony is to do with the whole map being happy with itself. Successful harmony leads to repose. Perfect harmony of elements leads to a neutral bloom. Harmony is subliminal.
    3. Simplicity from Sacrifice
      Great design tends towards simplicity (Bertin). Its not what you put in that makes a great map but what you take out. The map design stage is complete when you can take nothing else out. Running the film of an explosion backwards, all possibilities rush to one point. They become the right point. This is the designer's skill. Content may determine scale or scale may determine content, and each determines the level of generalization (sacrifice).
    4. Maximum Information at Minimum Cost (after Ziff)
      How much information can be gained from this map, at a glance. Functionality not utility. Design makes utility functional. All designs are a compromise, just as a new born baby is a compromise between its father and mother. The spark which makes a map special often only comes when the map is complete.
    5. Engage the Emotion to Engage the Understanding
      Design with emotion to engage the emotion. Only by feeling what the user feels can we see what the user sees. Good designers use Cartographic fictions, Cartographic impressions, Cartographic illusions to make a map. All of these have emotive contents. The image is the message. Good design is a result of the tension between the environment (the facts) and the designer. Only when the reader engages the emotion, the desire, will they be receptive to the map's message. Design uses aesthetics but the principles of aesthetics are not those of design. We are not just prettying maps up. The philosophy is simple, beauty (aesthetics) focuses the attention. Focusing the attention is the purpose of map design!

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      jaerdaph is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravells View Post
    Oh don't worry, everyone ignores me! (sob sob!)

    I had forgotten that I had posted this. As the weblink itself has been taken from a listserve post and I do not believe that there are any copyright issues, I reproduce it below in case the link gets lost over time:

    I think that what we tend to do at the Guild is to emulate maps that we like the look of (well, I do anyway!) but these principles do go a long way to assisting a cartographer in designing a map using a new vocabulary of visual language.
    You know, I read this when you first posted it but I'm not sure why I never commented on it though. I bookmarked it as well, and I've gotten into the habit of reading it right before I open up a session of CC3. They're a good thing to have fresh in your mind when mapping. So thank you for posting them.
    jaerdaph
    JUST ADD HEROES An ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game Blog by Joe "jaerdaph" Bardales

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      Patrakis is offline
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    Yep,

    These are intersting thoughts and kind of spark the imagination when stuggleling to find inspiration for a map....

    Printed it and tacked it on me wall i did.

    Thanks

    Pat
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      Sirith is offline
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    Hmm, am I the only one who thinks the language is confusing rather than informative? I understand most of the things that are mentioned (composition, design choices, involving emotion, etc), but I don't find them nearly as well explained as they could be. In my opinion anyway.

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      ravells is offline
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    I know what you mean, Sirith, I'm reading a book on how cities are shaped which has been written by an academic who insists on using 4 syllable words when a 1 syllable word will do.

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      NeonKnight is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravells View Post
    I know what you mean, Sirith, I'm reading a book on how cities are shaped which has been written by an acedemic who insists on using 4 syllable words when a 1 syllable word will do.
    Ahhh, my favorite Motto! Gonna make that my Sig:

    Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice!
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

    Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice!

    Any questions on CC3? Post them with CC3 in the Subject Line!
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      su_liam is offline
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    I'm taking my new sig from the first principle:

    The parts embarrass the whole.

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      pyrandon is offline
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    I must admit the language does not appear overly ornate to me. I think it is generally precise (plus don like big words...
    Don
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