Why do I make maps?
I love beautiful maps. I love useful maps. Some maps are both. Maps have always caught my eye but I never thought of making them until I was laid off from an IT job at a large company and realized I didn’t want to do that kind of work anymore – I wanted to do something creative.
So I went back to school to get a post-graduate GIS Specialist Certificate. The program had two streams: programming and graphic design. We could tell after the first term if we had picked the right stream by what kind of work we enjoyed.
I can spend hours playing with anchor points and adjusting labels and deciding on fonts and colours, so I knew the cartography stream was for me. I wasn’t too interested in the programming aspect so by mid-program I knew I wanted to “make pretty maps”. I had fallen in love with cartography.
There is nothing quite so satisfying as starting off with a blank artboard, some unstyled data layers, and working away at it until it becomes a finished map. For my own portfolio projects I often lose track of time and don’t remember to take a break until everything looks blurry from staring at the computer so long.
This is my third career, after archaeology and IT. I don’t miss working in a large IT department, but I do sometimes miss being an archaeologist. I satisfy that interest by visiting museums and archaeological sites when travelling.
During a trip to Paris in 2016 I practically had my face pressed up to the window of a shop selling old maps. Unfortunately I had to stay outside the store because I only travel with carry-on luggage and the maps wouldn’t fit. I had to make do with a photo of the store window. Perhaps one day I’ll go back to that store and indulge my curiosity.
Note: A version of this post was originally published in October 2016 on my old website.
To make sure you don't miss the next blog post, sign up to our newsletter to receive news and updates.