I would like to skip the introduction and dive directly to the real thing. Honestly, the process of making a beautiful and an informative map relies on creativity. For a map to communicate effectively, below are 5 questions that the designer must answer.
Q1. Is the title reflecting the intention of the map?
The title of your map should immediately convey the information intended. I find it annoying when a map attracts my attention only to realize it contains rather different information. The theme of the content and the geographic location are simply enough. This shouldn’t necessarily be the first question but it is important as the map itself.
Q2. Is this map element important?
Do not fail to include a map element or exclude it without answering this question. Yes, for a North arrow is definitely okay if you expect a wide audience to use your map. Remember, not everybody is aware which direction is north. Maps also include elements or features like disclaimers if the need be. Once you find an element important to the map do not forget to consider positioning and re-sizing it appropriately.
Q3. Do the elements included aid the user to correctly understand the map?
This should be an obvious question (and not in this article at all). Sometimes a graph would better explain a map, a small photo will draw the required interest or even a blowout map would illustrate details that are not noticeable immediately. The easiest way to create a quality map is to consult the end user or experienced cartographers for ideas. Professional and user-based feedback should help you in communicating more effectively in your the final map.
Q4. Are the visual effects of elements in the map evenly or unevenly distributed?
Content that you expect to display by the help of a map and feedback from Q3 should leave you with a list of elements that you must have in the map. Nevertheless, you have to consider if seven elements will fit evenly on an A4 map. The arrangement of map features is very important if you want a beautiful map at the end of your design process. There is nothing worse than a poor map experience especially if a user needed to extract meaningful information from the map.
Q5. Does the map extent cover the area of interest?
A map is a scaled representation of the world or part of it in most cases. The major concern is usually the extent to which you will scale down in order to capture the area of interest and still display relevant information. It is recommendable to ensure that you capture the key features and include other information in the reference.
The Map-making process should lead to appealing maps that communicate effectively, if a cartographer uses the above questions as a guide they will definitely produce a wonderful map. Importance of spatial data and its elegant display are equally important.