Auto and Travel Aids: Maps and Cartography

Cartography refers to the art of drafting maps. Cartographers, or mapmakers, combine science, aesthetics design, and artistic techniques to build on the concept of modeling reality in various ways that effectively communicates the spatial orientation of a given area. Traditional cartographers arrange the map’s agenda and the physical or abstract traits of an object. The physical traits of a map may include natural landscapes and man-made infrastructure. The abstract traits may include recognized territory, such as political boundaries and historical references of particular places. Cartographers draft the terrain of a given area on a flat surface, which serves as a visual aid for those wishing to navigate a given area. Cartographers edit and remove the irrelevant characteristics of a map. In addition, they reduce the complexity of the map’s characteristics for simplistic understanding. Lastly, cartographers orientate the map’s elements to communicate the original message to the intended audience.

The History of Cartography

Cartographers still argue over the origin of the map, mainly because some early maps differ in their construction. Some consider the wall painting of Catal Huyuk as the oldest form of map in human history. Other attempts include the wall paintings of the Minoan “House of the Admiral,” which dates around the seventh millennium B.C.E., and an engraved pictorial of the ancient Babylonian city of Nippur. The ancient Greeks and Chinese created maps and geographical literature that dates back to the 8th century B.C.E. In ancient India, cartographers attempted to chart the Pole star and other groupings.

During the Age of Exploration, spanning the 15th and 17th century A.D., several renowned European cartographers drafted their own maps based on their individual explorations. The invention of several navigational tools, such as the telescope, magnetic compass, and sextant, allowed cartographers to accurately chart their destinations. The oldest extant of the Earth was charted by Martin Behaim in 1492. Martin Waldseemuller created the first world map and an immense twelve-panel world map that revealed the first use of the word “America.” Diego Ribero created the first planisphere with an Equator in 1527. Battista Agnese created at least seventy-one atlases of the charted open seas. Pioneering cartographers oft borrowed concepts from previous works without attributing the proper credit to the original cartographer. Nevertheless, aspiring cartographers continued to create and refine map-making to an exact science.

Types of Maps

Cartographers divide their career field into two categories, including general and thematic cartography. General cartography involves the construction of maps for a general audience. General maps exhibit a numerous features, including several referential location systems. Cartographers usually produce general maps in a series. Thematic cartography involves map making with specific themes geared towards a specific audience, such as dot maps that shows agricultural facilities throughout a targeted region. Thematic cartographer has grown exponentially, because of the increased volume of geographical data over the course of the last century. Thematic cartographers may create an orienting map that combines general and thematic elements. Orienting maps are usually geared towards niche user communities.

Cartographers also create topographical maps that employ the use of contour lines to exhibit the landscapes’ elevation. In topographical designs, cartographers may depict the terrain or relief in a variety of ways. By default, topographical maps are very general in its nature. Topographical cartographers oft disregard scale and detail in order to promote the understanding of a specific route. Topographical maps disregards reality by depicting curved tracks and straightened roads. Even though the cartographer contorts directions, the reader expects it as an indicator of where a specific location lies. In other words, topographical maps magnify the point of interest.

Map Designs and Symbology

Cartography aims to accurately depict the world and effectively communicate the location of specific points of interest to its audience. A map can only convey the information if the cartographer appropriately designed it. Therefore, cartographers oft include legends that explain the pictorial language of the charted map. The legend contains symbols that have specific meanings for different objects on the map. The title of the map indicates the region that it portrays, and the map image should accurately portray the region. Ever map element serves a purpose; however, cartographers may only include these elements at their discretion. A list of map elements includes the neat-line, also known as the border, the compass rose, overview, scale, and projection. Map readers must always pay close attention to the scale of the map as it may indicate something entirely different than the landscape it represents.

Cartographers use map coloring to display a certain set of data at different hues. This greatly affects how the map looks and feels. The varying intensities of hue portray different objectives that the cartographer wishes to convey to the audience. Modern cartographers use computer programs to implement over sixteen million colors at a time. This allows cartographers to create highly detailed maps. Cartographers may include quantitative symbols that provide the size of a particular region. They may create maps to portray data collections of the census in these areas.

The Mathematics of Cartography

Cartographers design and revise maps based on the spatial information gathered from existing databases. Cartographers employ a wide variety of mathematical disciplines, including algebra, trigonometry, calculus, analytical geometry, elementary statistics, spatial statistics, and discrete mathematics. Cartographers use their mathematical knowledge to create the map’s scale, coordinate systems, and map projection. Cartographers define the map projection as the relationship between two distances portrayed on a map and the actual distances on the Earth’s surfaces. The map project is oft displayed as a fraction or ratio. Cartographers use coordinate systems as a numerical method of creating representations of the map’s portrayed locations. In addition, the map projection serves as a function or transformation that relates the charted coordinates on curved surfaces to the coordinates on a plane.