Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Not to Complicate Things but…More on Complexity

March 17th, 2011

The other day I posted a checklist of things to evaluate when reviewing a finished map product. There’s a sub-section titled CLUTTER, with most of the items hinting that more is less, complexity is bad, and clutter is worse. There is one item, however, that speaks to the idea that the map ought to have all the layers of information on it that is needed. With that item I was hoping to convey the idea that one shouldn’t take away too much just for the sake of decluttering.

A few years ago I posted a map on Cartotalk for review and was quickly informed that the background had too much white-space. The original idea behind the white-space was, of course, to keep the map simple and uncluttered. But the critics were right in that having some sort of background, even a simple one, gives the impression that there’s something back there. The map reader needed context.

In Donald Norman’s “Living with Complexity” he states, “One fundamental principle is that there is a preferred range of complexity: things that are too simple are boring, shallow. Things that are too complex are confusing, upsetting. People prefer an intermediate level of complexity.”

Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration