In a recent ArcWatch article, Esri president Jack Dangermond provides some comments on how he sees the mapping landscape developing over the next few years. He sees web maps (which he refers to as intelligent web maps) as becoming the new medium for the way information is delivered. Well, paper is probably a long way from being dead but certainly, web maps are increasingly important and increasingly used.
We’d agree…and we also agree fundamentally with his opening quote: “We need to spend more time designing maps and not just producing them”. It doesn’t matter in what medium your map is made but design is crucial to its success as a communication device. If you have something to say then your map should contain good content, clearly illustrated in a way that captures and holds your reader’s interest.
Far too many web maps are poorly designed, partly because of the lack of maturity of web mapping tools, but as with any developing technology, potential is not always fully explored. Dangermound continues… “The problem is that most of these maps are not effectively designed.” and that “You need to understand the issue [that] you are going to communicate, and you need to bring the appropriate data to it and do analytics and manipulation, and then come up with a compelling graphic design that helps us understand”.
Good web maps can be made and useful tools do exist. What we need to encourage in map makers is for them to see design as an important component of their work. That, of course, is what this Commission on Map Design is focused on and we endorse Dangermond’s comments and look forward to a future populated by excellence in web mapping. Much work to do to realize that of course…and we’ll be helping shape the conceptual and practical landscape to support that aim.