Maps can be beautiful. Some antique maps, found today in prints, writing paper, and even greeting cards, are appreciated more for their aesthetic value than their original cartographic use. The aspiring map maker can be intimidated by these masterpieces of science and art. Fortunately, the mapping process doesn’t need to be intimidating or mystical.
Before you begin, you should know that all maps serve a specific purpose. If you understand that purpose, you’ve decoded the most important piece of a mapping project. This is true regardless of how the map is made. Traditional tools were pen and ink, not magic. Digital maps are just a drawing made up of points strung together into lines and shapes, or a mosaic of colored squares.
The purpose and fundamentals of digital mapping are no different and no more complex than traditional mapping. In the past, a cartographer would sit down, pull out some paper, and sketch a map. Of course, this took skill, knowledge, and a great deal of patience. Using digital tools, the computer is the canvas, and software tools do the drawing using geographic data as the knowledge base. Not only do digital tools make more mapping possible, in most cases digital solutions make the work ridiculously easy.
This chapter explores the common tasks, pitfalls, and issues involved in creating maps using computerized methods. This includes an overview of the types of tasks involved with digital mapping—the communication of information ...