cartography gis

My Cartography Checklist

When I’m at work, anytime I’m designing maps, when I think I’m just about done, I consult my checklist to make sure I didn’t forget anything important. I figured this might help other people who make thematic maps.

Rachel’s cartography checklist:

  • Does the title accurately describe what the map is showing?
  • Do the legend titles describe what you’re listing?
  • Does a subheading need to be used on the title (for a basemap etc?)
  • Do you need to put the N for anything?
  • If N = 100 can you count 100 on the map? If not what happened to the rest?
  • Does the color ramp match the content and data distribution?
  • Does having the N of the data up top help?
  • Is everything in the legend that needs to be? Is there something in the legend that doesn’t need to be?
  • Are there any caveats to the data? Were any populations excluded?
  • Is anything important to show that is currently outside of the study area?
  • Is anything being masked by a dataframe clip?
  • Is a newer version of the data available?
  • Could you in some way combine different features on the map into a new pattern to be analyzed? Like by spatial joining points to an area will the count of points be useful? How about a summary by area?
  • Are the labels covering up any important features or patterns?
  • Would a different font make the map look nicer?
  • Check the order of the layers in the table of contents, should they be rearranged?
  • Do the numbers add up to the correct total? If showing rates, are they consistent?
  • Between each group, how do patterns differ? Do patterns go in the same order or different?
  • Did you check grammar and spelling?
  • Is the source information correct?
  • Do you need a watermark or Draft mark?

I could probably keep thinking of more, but these are the things I’m constantly checking for, to ensure my maps are informative.

Happy Mapping!


The Map Making Process...

Step 1: Look at the assignment in shock and horror… repeat “Da Fuq is this??”

Step 2: Comment “There is no way in hell I can do that.”

Step 3: google … google the shit out of it… google every fucking arcmap thing you can think of.

Step 4: Realize there is a way to do what you want the way you think, but it involves a knowledge level way above your pay grade, and pretty sure you have to be from another planet too. Damn your parents and their earth based whoopie making!

Step 5: Press a lot of buttons… repeatedly hit new map every time you hit a dead end.

Step 6: Google some more

Step 7: Wow… this is actually looking good!

Step 8: Holy crap did I make that??? It looks… like a map!

Bonus step: Consider changing your major and/or job to something involving kittens

Trying out QGIS because I just found out how much an ArcGIS license with a Spatial Analysis extension really is. I’m in a very ArcMap state of mind, so using this different interface is a bit confusing. Anywho, I hope all is well out there.

NOTE: Visualization does not properly interpret race density. Essentially, the data is on four different layers, and this visualization does not show areas where layers overlay. So an area that looks like it has a high Asian population density may also have a high White population, but that layer is beneath another one so it isn’t properly visualized.