Book Review: Making Maps by Krygier and Wood

Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS
by John Krygier and Denis Wood
Guilford Press, 2005. Softcover, 303 pp. ISBN 1-59385-200-2

I love this book. It’s just so neat.

Although Making Maps is aimed at a GIS audience (just look at that subtitle), this is not a book about GIS. (But it’s certainly for GIS.) Nor is it limited to the GIS pros. Rather, it’s a book that lives up to its title in the broadest sense: it’s about making maps not in the technical sense, but in the conceptual sense. As such, it’s applicable to everyone with an interest in mapmaking, regardless of their professional level or the software they use to make their maps. Even people who make maps with pen and ink — which is, I suppose, how we all started, pros and hobbyists alike — will learn a great deal from this book.

Making Maps is a profoundly visual book. In a way, it’s all illustrations and sidebars and captions, with very little text in any kind of linear narrative. Its chapters outline the choices that a mapmaker must make when creating a map: technical choices like projection and scale; more artistic choices like colour — with, of course, numerous examples. When representing data (for example, showing poverty rates by geographic area), the authors discuss the use of colour and hue. The map’s purpose also determines how it’s simplified — no map can include every detail, so what detail do you include, what do you exclude, and what do you highlight? Two maps of the same area with different purposes will look very different.

Krygier and Wood take us through these choices, but they also point out why some choices are better for some purposes than others. They don’t say, for example, that Mercator is a better projection than Robinson (or vice versa), but that each is best for a certain purpose. It’s a very practical book, all the more because it doesn’t sit on the fence.

Making Maps is both accessible and useful: everyone with an interest in maps will be able to take something away from it. But it’s also tremendously enjoyable reading. Highly recommended.

Making Maps’s web site is here; there’s also a blog that serves as both FAQ and update log. John Krygier’s home page is here.

I received a review copy of this book. More on my book review policy.

See other reviews of Making Maps at Cartography and Very Spatial.

See previous entry: Book Review Roundup.