Academic Cartography (Mapmaking) and Design

Posted: January 19th, 2008 | No Comments »

In Denis Wood’s Cartography is Dead (Thank God!)

I have no interest in belittling the positive contributions made by the generations of academic cartographers – but there’s a lot that was dead wood to begin with, and is so rotten today it’s threatening the rest of it. All the prescriptive bullshit, every map must have a legend and a scale – all that – ignored in fact on a gazillion effective, useful maps, all that has to stop. And design! Academic cartographers have never understood a thing – not a thing -about design. God knows that, as a group, the least interesting, least attractive, least significant maps have been made by university cartographers: all that design talk, from design illiterates, that’s got to stop.

Relation to my thesis: A new type of science of mapmaking (or communication through maps) will need to take into account geo-communication mechanisms (as suggested by Lars Brodersen) and an understanding of the user and its context to inform the design. It will also need to inspire and communicate with the artists, engineers, designers, urban planners, … sociologists, ethnographers, psychologists, visionary, … astronomers, “canal diggers” who inspire compelling and significant work such as Kevin Lynch’s “mental maps” of Boston or Joseph Minard’s Napolean March.