Mapping is a craft. Making a map is doing a work of art.
It is as if you’re making beer, coffee, or chocolate. You can read manuals and use high-tech appliances but the best maps are those made thoughtfully; they are well-used. A well-crafted map is very much like your favorite fiction book: folded, torn, smudged, worn out, and (probably) smuggled - but well-loved.
Why so? Using a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software certainly boosts the creative process; yet there is no substitute for a well-thought cartographic piece. I tell you - two persons with the same software and data set can make two very different maps.
How can we craft a well-loved map?
As much as possible, the details of the map should be filled with your memories of the place. This is because visiting the place infuses a secret element: the experience of the place. Personally experiencing a place creates a special memory bank - the mind map. Afterwards, it won’t be difficult to draw thoughts and emotions from that bank of geographic details. These deposits set your map apart from any other product of desktop software.
Make sure that the names and boundaries of places are correct as these
are held dear by the residents. History is full of mapmakers who, with whatever intention, modified names and disregarded the memories associated with the name. This happened when “Sasmuan” in Pampanga became “Sexmoan” through the alleged alteration by a foreign mapmaker. The work has to convey not only emotion but also thought through accurate and locally-sourced data. This gives justice to people who live in the real space that we’re putting into abstract.
There are times when you don’t have to prioritize boundaries. Place rivers over borderlines to remind people that we don’t have to try too hard to pixellate an otherwise fractal and transboundary world.
Whether printing on paper or projecting on screen, you will enrich the mapmaking through such simple steps.
Draft becomes craft.
Mapping is a craft. Like in a photograph, the crispiness or haziness of the resolution of the map matters; the scale gives the impression of tightness or wideness. Like in a sculpture, the undulations of the relief provide the feeling as if your touching the landscape. Like in a painting, the tone and hues should elicit feeling. Like in a novel, the image has to convey a story, particularly through typography. Like in a delicacy, the appearance should leave an aftertaste through an afterthought.
Eventually, the medium becomes the message; the jpeg file becomes something that you can’t buy off the bookstore shelf.
Once you consume it, the well-crafted map enters the consciousness and engages the taste and mind; the landscape becomes part of the mindscape.
It is only through crafting - not just drafting - that the map gains potency for making good decisions, managing resources, and saving lives.
Therefore, dear map user, please don’t have the mapper rush the map. Yet there’s a warning, dear mapper: please don’t make the map user wait too long, or else.
This didn’t have to be erudite, esoteric, and terrifyingly long but it’s #sentisabado haha.
Credits: the map is part of a continuing work for the Guiuan LGU and UN-HABITAT. The geohazard data is from Project NOAH and JICA. The island boundary data is from Google Earth. :)