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Thread: The 'Cartographer' Title

  1. #1
    Guild Member Lailokken's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
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    Post The 'Cartographer' Title

    The word Cartographer is used frequently on this site, which I'm sure comes as no surprise to anyone. I'm curious though, does everyone here consider themselves to be one? Are there inherent skills and knowledge one must possess to claim that title? Are there college degrees one must receive? Is it as simple as being able to take a real or imagined image, and transfer it to paper?

    I myself would not use that title, although I do aspire to be able to one day. What do other newbies think? What do all you veterans say? Should the title 'Cartographer' be akin to the awards on the site; something that must be earned?

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  2. #2
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    Well, considering, the word Cartography is a french word meaning to make maps ([French cartographie : carte, map (from Old French, from Latin charta, carta, paper made from papyrus; see card1) + -graphie, writing (from Greek graphi), and a Cartographer is someone who makes maps, then yes, all who are hear are in some way, a Cartographer.

    As to skills or knowledge, no, there are no inherent skills one needs to possess. The literal definition of Cartographer is someone who makes maps. No degree necessary. No different than saying someone is a Plumber or Framer, or electrician. (of course with those, the astute reader will notice I did not further specify Licensed or Accredited ) And I do mean Framer (a person who frames something, as in construction) as opposed to a Farmer, someone who farms.
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  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Having played D&D I've always sort of put everything into levels of competence from novice to master. For our discussion here I'd say there are novices, adepts, map-makers, cartographers, and masters. Novices make mistakes and very simple maps. Adepts make maps that look pretty good but lack something that ties it all together and are usually tied to a certain style or school (tutorial). Map-makers understand the geology and physics behind what shapes our world so they don't have to stick to real-world mapping...they can do fantasy maps with coherence. Cartographers know how to put all of it together in a pleasing way (this includes things like formatting text properly, proper label placement, cartouches, and illustrations). Masters can work in any style and have it be a masterpiece. And if this were like a thieve's guild or mage guild we'd have secret masters who have access to arcane and forbidden knowledge. These are the folks that no matter what they do it always turns out golden. Now that's all just my opinion, there actual degrees one can earn from a university but I always told my parents, "I don't need a piece of paper from a university to tell me that I am an artist or not, I need one to be a lawyer or a doctor but not an artist" so that sort of applies to this science/art of making maps.
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  4. #4
    Guild Artisan LonewandererD's Avatar
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    Jun 2009


    Myself, no I'm not a cartographer. When I think cartographer I think more on the lines of atlas style maps or hand-drawn maps like the works of HandsomeRob or Ramah; a lot of my maps I would consider more to be amateur art rather than cartography. As for cartography skills there are some skills that people can have such as being able to draw things accurately to scale but you don't really need skill to make a map, you would need some skill to do an accurate map or a map in very particular style or format but not for map-making in general. I suppose you can get degrees in cartography but they would be more like degrees in Philosophy, useful to have but poeple can still be philosophers or cartographers without them, the degree gives more of a sense professionalism or implied acedemic knowledge, no offense to any academic philosophers/cartographers in the guild. That's just my opinion though.

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  5. #5
    Guild Artisan eViLe_eAgLe's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
    Washington State


    I think its someone who makes maps about real world countries and locations effectively useful in everyday life.

  6. #6


    I just enjoy to work on maps. I would never consider myself a Cartographer.

    In real life I am a contractor, and do a ton of carpentry work, but never got a Trade certification. I say I do carpentry but am not a carpenter. (same goes with all the other trades I practice at)

  7. #7
    Guild Expert Hai-Etlik's Avatar
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    There are still people who specialise in making maps in particular, but most maps now are created by people who are doing something else that simply results in a map. Much of this 'doing stuff that results in maps' is collectively known as 'Geographic Information Systems' or 'GIS'. The important things are the systems for gathering, storing, processing, and analysing geographic data, and maps are just one of the ways we present the results. Those of us in the GIS field know a bit about making maps, particularly about the technical details relating to geodesy like datums (Yes, in this case it's not 'data'), projections, scales, coordinate systems, etc, and we usually get at least a bit of training in designing maps that are functional and attractive (Part of one course in my case).

    A pure cartographer, at least one who needs to be more than just a graphic designer who draws pictures of maps, also needs to understand those technical details about projections, and the specialised design needs of maps, but not GIS things like geodatabase schema design, geostatistics, programming, or remote sensing. Such a pure cartographer would make prettier and more usable maps in general than a GIS analyst, and more precise and technically correct maps than a graphic designer.

  8. #8
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    @NeonKnight - so what about those people wanting to frame farms ... well, I gues they are fence makers ... and we won't go into those weirdos who farms frames... they are better left unmentioned
    and I agree with the sentiments above, a "true" cartographer understands and creates map with a great understanding both for the art and for the visualisation of the information. IMHO. I prefer just being a fantasy cartographer, more fun as I can make up my own worlds, and I've got a long way to go yet to make my leap from "apprentice" (to my self and the guild masterworks) but every map makes you better and concidering my normal work as a AD/graphic artist/desktopper and my hobby of painting I hope to get there some day, but cartography is a long way of the stuff I usually do.

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  9. #9
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    Nah... I'm just a Photoshop hack who occasionally gets lucky and manages to cobble something together that looks halfway decent.
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  10. #10


    It might be amusing to set up some sort of certification/ranking system, and to move up you have to present a map to a board. Doubtful it would be worth the effort or bureaucracy, but it would be amusing to be able to say 'Certified Cartographer Adept' on my resume.
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    Assuming I stick with fantasy cartography, I'd like to become a World Builder, laying out not only a realistic topography, but also the geopolitical boundaries and at least rough descriptions of the countries and societies.

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