Ethics and Map Design: Six Strategies for Confronting the Traditional One-Map Solution


  • Mark Monmonier Syracuse University



ethics, map design, one-map solution


Traditional, positivist approaches to map design usually yield a single map. These one-map solutions foster a highly selective, authored view reflecting consciously manipulative or ill-conceived design decisions about many factors, such as map scale, geographic scope, feature content, map title, classification of data, and the crispness or fuzziness of symbols representing uncertain features. As a result, the rightfully skeptical map viewer ought to question whether (a) an ulterior motive led to a biased view of reality favoring the author's philosophical or political biases or economic goals, or (b) a lazy map author failed to explore designs offering a more coherent or complete picture of reality. Technology has aggravated the problem of one-map solutions by placing powerful mapping software at the disposal of amateur cartographers who can generate convincing-looking graphics with little or no understanding of their data or the principles of mapping. And technology also allows devious map makers to perfect designs that support their points. But technology can also foster greater openness and more complete understanding of maps and their meaning, and thereby provide a more ethical approach to cartographic analysis and communication. After discussing the problem of single cartographic views, I present six strategies for a more open and overtly critical cartography in which one-map solutions are both rare and suspect.




How to Cite

Monmonier, M. (1991). Ethics and Map Design: Six Strategies for Confronting the Traditional One-Map Solution. Cartographic Perspectives, (10), 3–8.



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