All right, so here’s the situation in a nut shell. We have, today, cartographer elites who do amazing work of infinite complexity and amazing variety. While we mostly had uninspired scientific maps in the era between 1997 and 2009 (anyone remember the dark tan background of the Esri default map back in the day?) that either went way too simple or way too detailed and incomprehensible, we now have Mike Bostock putting together a thousand* map variations that all have a particular look and meaning, RedGeographics putting together detailed maps that actually look good, and Oregon State putting together innovative relief shading techniques. Obviously that’s just to name a few.
But, while we revel in their amazingness, should we not also be contributing our own spectacular maps and thus attaining elite recognition as well? Let me point out that these people who are doing these amazing things weren’t intimidated by the cartographers of the past, who also made great contributions, like Snyder (Map Projections: A Working Manual), Imhof’s Cartographic Relief Presentation, and Marie Tharp’s ocean floor mapping, Instead, they forged ahead in what is truly a combined science and art that still needs capable, creative, thoughtful, and smart individuals to contribute much more to it.
I know that it can seem like there are others who would be able to produce a map faster and better but it’s a field that can stretch to such great lengths if you only tap into that great breadth of knowledge that you posses to bring more freshness, more design options, and better spatial understanding than ever before!
*It’s a lot, anyway.