Map Critique

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At your first critique, we will use maps that are familiar in terms of their use and geography. The main idea is to cover:

* basics of maps types
* notions of intuitive and conventional symbology, and
* criteria to use in critiquing a map.

Map types: Reference Maps vs. Thematic
* Reference maps are for multiple purposes and typically have many data layers
* Thematic maps have only one or a few uses and typically have many data layers
* List and/or point out examples of each.

About Symbology
* Intuitive symbols are symbols that can be interpreted without any prior special knowledge or instruction. Hillshade or graduated color intensity are usually intuitive.
* Conventional symbols are those that are commonly used and easily understood but require prior knowledge or experience. Blue water, green forest land, and black or red roads are all map conventions.
* Legends help map readers interpret map symbology that is neither intuitive or conventional. A cluttered legend interferes with the user's efforts to use the map.

Criteria for map critiques
Below are some questions that might be helpful in critiquing maps that you, your colleagues and professionals make. You don't need to cover all of these in every critique, but cover the most relevant questions. Additional questions may be appropriate for specific maps. In every critique find both strengths and weaknesses and decide how the map might be improved.

* At what distance is the map meant to be read? One or many?
* Is the medium appropriate to the use? For instance, should the map be larger/smaller? Electronic rather than on paper? Interactive?
* Can you readily understand the overall purpose of the map and how it is to be read?
* What is its intended use? Does it have one?
* Stand back from the map. Does your eye fall on important elements or an oversized or overly bright unimportant element?
* Are all necessary elements included? Are all unnecessary elements excluded? Are these choices appropriate?
* Did the mapmaker have any inappropriate assumptions or did they have something to hide?
* What kinds of compromises did the mapmaker have to make due to data, medium, printing, or other constraints?

* Do the colors clash or clutter?
* Are there too many (most common) or too few colors?
* Do they add emphasis in appropriate places/ways?
* Do they cause vibrating or rising/receding effects? If so, is that appropriate?
* Do the colors help or hinder the reader in interpreting the map?
* Are any colors too close or too different in hue, value and saturation?
* Are the colors meant to be intuitive or conventional?

* Is the symbology appropriate to the use of the map?
* What was the main motivation in choosing the symbols?
* Do the classifications or color values make sense for different feature types?
* Does the map make appropriate use of conventional or intuitive symbology?

* Are the data appropriate to the use and/or intended message of the map?
* Is the scale of the map appropriate to its intended use?
* Does the data in the map match the scale? In other words, do the features have too little detail
(they look blocky) or too much (their boundaries are too convoluted)?

* Does the layout have too many fonts? Fewer fonts and font styles make for cleaner layouts.
* Is the choice of font appropriate to the map's use and to the feel of the layout?
* Are the labels, titles, legend labels, etc. in an appropriate size, location, and/or color?
* Are all necessary textual elements in the layout?
* Are there any unnecessary elements?

* Are the elements in the layout distributed in a balanced or appropriate way?
* Are the sizes of the elements appropriate and balanced?
* Does the layout have enough or too much negative space?

Meta Information
* Does the mapmaker credit appropriate sources?
* Do you have all the information you will need to interpret the map appropriately?

For some interesting notes on critiquing maps, read

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