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Student: Tapiwa Munzanza

Student Number: N0165644L

Faculty: Engineering and Built Environment

Department: Geomatics and Surveying

Course: Elements of Cartography

Course code: EGS 2107

Question: Discuss how the evolution of cartography has helped to shape today’s
mapping processes and their use. [25]

1.0 Introduction

Map-making is an ancient field dating from the first efforts by humans to create pictorial
representations of the world around them, by drawing on the walls or mud floors of caves.
The need to find everyone’s place on the world led to study of maps. Use of clay in ancient
helped to draft many sections of areas they live and the whole earth. However, high rates of
distortions on clay and other papers used long back led people to find other mapping tools.
Lack of trust to paper maps drawn by ancient Greeks also gave people to redraw maps using
other tools. Hand drawn maps became more accurate as people made new discoveries in the
study of maths and geography.
Advancement in technology made it easier to get accurate map data, creating a good map still
requires skill of an artist. According to Wikipedia encyclopaedia (2017), the invention of
aeroplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903 helped in aerial cartography which was
already invented by Gaspar Felix Tournachon in 1858 who was a photographer and

2.0 Definitions
2.1 Cartography
The creation and study of maps is referred as cartography. According to Fenna (2007), the
major role of cartography is to map geographic facts and phenomena which are identifiable
by their position and which can be geo referenced, achieved and referred onto maps.
According to International Cartographic Association (1995) defines cartography as the
discipline dealing with the conception, production, dissemination and study of maps.
Cartography is also about representation the map. This means that cartography is the whole
process of mapping. Viewed in the broadest sense; this process includes everything from the
gathering, evaluation and processing of source data, through the intellectual and graphical
design of the map, to the drawing and reproduction of the final document.
2.2 Map
A map is a diagram or graph representing the actual information on the ground and it is
drawn to scale. A graphic depiction of all or part of a geographic realm in which the real
world features have been replaced by symbols in their correct spatial location at a reduced
scale (Clarke, 2001). A map comprises of elements which should work together so as to
produce the desired output which is readable and understandable by people, thus unity. The
elements are lettering, purpose, colours, scale, patterns, reproduction, symbols and topic.
2.3 Geographic Information Systems

Geographic information systems (GIS) are computer applications concerned with the
manipulation of geographic information, and today these software packages are capable of
the representation, analysis, and visualization of virtually any form of information about the
distribution of features and phenomena on the surface of the Earth. According to Michael
(1986), the initial developments of GIS occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, as computers
became powerful enough to manage the large volumes of data being collected from satellites
or digitized from paper maps, and today virtually all geographic information is in digital
form, stored in a computer, at some point in its life

2.4 Remote sensing

Remote sensing is defined as the art and science of making measurements of the earth using
sensors on airplanes or satellites. The sensors collect data in the form of images and provide
specialised capabilities for manipulating, analysing, and visualising those images. Remote
sensing images are now integrated through Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

3.0 Benefits of cartography

Cartography is of fundamental importance for all geographic data characterised by a spatial

attribute that is datum coordinates, as it provides a possible description of the shape and size
of the earth and its natural and artificial details (Fernad 2007). Cartography is a vital aspect in
today’s living or in modern world since it allows humans to understand analyse spatial
relationships. Also plays a vital role in making decision based on spatial relationships.
Mapping processes affect natural resources distribution, urban planning and also disaster
relief. Thus cartography has emerged so that mapping processes affect natural resources
distribution, urban planning and disaster relief positively. In terms of disaster management,
with the help of cartography maps are used to depict the actual site or location of the disaster

Cartography in the present day is done through computers this gave birth to Computer Aided
Cartography (CAC). The use of computers in creation of maps by cartographers was a greater
achievement in the evolution of cartography. This move brought several benefits to the
society and also environment itself. According to Morrison (1995), there remain
technological advances on the horizon, but the current commitment of the federal mapping
programs to digital cartography is so tremendous that now is the time to begin to appraise the

output of these computer-produced products with regard to their design and to appraise map
readers' abilities to perceive these products.

Computer produced products and reader's performances on them differ substantially from the
manually produced products which map readers were used to read before the birth of CAC.
Map readers are attracted to Computer Aided Cartography products because they are easier to
interpret. The use of symbols of reasonable size and colours on maps done through computers
had also reduced the problem of map interpretation. Computer Aided Cartography has the
advantages of the tremendous data processing and manipulation capabilities of the computer.
Raw data can be converted by statistical processing into rather complex interrelationships
which can then be mapped by rather simple methodologies.

4.0 Benefits of Computer Aided Cartography

Through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS), computers are now connected to
many servers and through the use of internet information is now transferred from one
computer to the other. Information from different servers is now stored in the data base where
it is safe and also available for future referencing. Cartography now assures the quality of
geospatial data. This attracts map readers and hence understanding is generated from the
good quality map. Computers are devices which have the ability of sharing data though the
internet, this simply means that through Computer Aided Cartography data concerning map
drawing is now shared. Cartography nowadays promotes geospatial advocacy and awareness.

Through the use of computers, in cartography there is now flexibility in the mapping
processes. Long ago maps were drawn on clay and once the clay dries up there was no way of
correcting the errors except creating another new map. This shows inflexibility in ancient
mapping processes. In addition there is now reduced vulnerability of maps to distortion. Clay
soils when exposed to heat expand and contract when exposed to low temperatures; this
simply means that shrinkages and expansions on ancient maps result in a lot of errors. The
birth of cartography solved the problem of shrinkage and expansion, thus it reduced errors on
map making. There is also ability to respond to the increasingly complex and diverse
requirements of geo information products. In cartography nowadays map revision is now
faster due to the use of computers.

5.0 Principles of cartography

In cartographic designs there are four basic principles which are followed by the
cartographers and these act as benefits of cartography to people. The principles are legibility,
visual contrast, figure to ground contrast and hierarchical organisation of layers.

5.1 Legibility

In cartography, legibility is whereby a person is able to obtain full information from the map
without seeking any assistance from another person. The evolution of cartography has helped
the map readers with full information expected to be on a map. This means maps are now
readable, understandable and recognisable. Cartography helped in the sense that maps are
now large enough and clear enough relative to the viewing scale, (Ordinance Survey Blog,
2014). If the mapmaker has symbolized one critical symbol poorly, the meaning of the entire
map may be ruined.

Maps are a unique form of graphic communication, in that their meaning hits the map reader
all at once. Through the evolution of cartography, map symbols are now legible to the reader.
Lines representing roads are differentiated from lines representing rivers. Circular points
symbolizing cities now have great difference from points symbolizing sewage outfalls. Map
feature labels should be readable by the map user under the conditions the map is designed
for, whether in a book, on a wall in a large meeting room, or in a car while driving down the
highway. Legibility also plays role in distinguishing two or more places from each other. For
example on a map one should differentiate two colours such as green from blue or red from
amber. According to Madej (2000), four per cent of the American population is facing
challenges in distinguishing red from green.

5.2 Visual contrast

This is a situation whereby the map reader is attracted to the symbols and signs used on a
map. The map reader’s eye is supposed to be attracted to the map. Visual Contrast With
thematic maps, the map symbols that represent your data should have good contrast with the
other map features. The map reader's eye is drawn instantly to contrasting shapes and colours.
Your job as map-maker is to make sure the reader's eye is drawn to the features that define
the purpose of the map, and is not confused with other less important information. There is
less contrast between different classes of reference map features because no one feature
should overpower another.

5.3 Figure-Ground Contrast

Thematic maps use visual contrast between classes of map features to establish figure-to-
ground contrast. The layer or theme that contains the important data should stand out from
the background layers of the map. Cartographers use several tools to trick the reader's eye
into seeing the important data, which seems to "float" above the rest of the map. According to
Madej (2000), figure-ground contrast is evident in the following illustration of interstate
highways of the south western United States. A theme used as a figure can be made darker
than the rest of the map, using the visual tool of value. With size, smaller map features appear
as the figure, whereas larger features constitute the ground. Map features that are closed
polygons near the centre of the map appear as the figure, whereas areas split by the edge of
the map are discerned as ground.

5.4 Hierarchical Organization

A good map is not a jumble of features but an intentionally organized series of geographic
data layers. The map maker establishes hierarchical organization of features between themes
with Theme layering in the view's Table of Contents, and within themes using the Legend
Editor. There are three main types of hierarchical organization: stereo grammic, extensional
and sub divisional. This helps the map reader quickly depict the place he is looking for.

6.0 Conclusion

Continuous advancement in technology in the world leave people not quite sure of what is
going to happen tomorrow. In this view, cartography is also affected in the way that changes
in mapping tools are bringing different effects in the field of cartography. Positively work is
made easier, quality of the products is continuing to change and time is also conserved.
However, the evolution in cartography acted as a barrier of map reading to the illiterate. It is
also less appreciated in developing countries especially in the country sides. Since the
advancement in technology is expensive, map making and collection of data is still done
manually in some regions of the world.

7.0 Reference list

7.1 Clarke K C 2001, Getting started with Geographic Information Systems, third edition
University of California.

7.2 Fenna D 2007, cartographic science, A compendium of map projections, with derivations,

7.3 International Cartographic Association 1995, in Switzerland

7.4 Joel L Morrison 1995 Elements of cartography, Publisher: Wiley & Sons, Incorporated,
John in Chicago.

7.5 Madej, Ed 2000, Cartographic Design Using ArcView GIS. New York: On Word Press.

7.6 Ordinance Survey Blog 2014, Cartographic Design Principles


7.7 Wikipedia, 2017, https://Wikipedia.org available on online