The author discuss effectiveness of cartographic presentations. The article includes opinions of cartographers regarding effectiveness, readability and efficiency of a map. It reminds the principles of map graphic design in order to verify them using examples of small-scale thematic maps.
The following questions have been asked: Is the map effective? Why is the map effective? How do cartographic presentation methods affect effectiveness of the cartographic message? What else can influence effectiveness of a map?
Each graphic presentation should be effective, as its purpose is to complete written word, draw the recipients’ attention, make text more readable, expose the most important information. Such a significant role of graphics results in the fact that graphic presentations (maps, diagrams) require proper preparation.
Users need to have a chance to understand the graphics language in order to draw correct conclusions about the presented phenomenon. Graphics should demonstrate the most important elements, some tendencies, and directions of changes. It should generalize and present a given subject from a slightly different perspective.
There are numerous examples of well-edited and poorly edited small-scale thematic maps. They include maps, which are impossible to interpret correctly. They are burdened with methodological defects and they cannot fulfill their task.
Cartography practice indicates that the principles related to graphic design of cartographic presentation are frequently omitted during the process of developing small-scale thematic maps used – among others – in the press and on the Internet. The purpose of such presentations is to quickly interpret them. On such maps editors’ problems with the selection of an appropriate symbol and graphic variable (fig. 1A, 9B) are visible. Sometimes they use symbols which are not sufficiently distinguishable nor demonstrative (fig. 11), it does not increase their readability. Sometime authors try too hard to reflect presented phenomenon and therefore the map becomes more difficult to interpret (fig. 4A,B). The lack of graphic sense resulting in the lack of graphic balance and aesthetics constitutes a weak point of numerous cartographic presentations (fig. 13).
Effectiveness of cartographic presentations consists of knowledge and skills of the map editor, as well as the recipients’ perception capabilities and their readiness to read and interpret maps. The qualifications of the map editor should include methodological qualifications supported by the knowledge of the principles for cartographic symbol design, as well as relevant technical qualifications, which allow to properly use the tools to edit a map. Maps facilitate the understanding of texts they accompany and they present relationships between phenomenon better than texts, appealing to the senses.