Managing the cartographic process often requires a specialist (cartographer), who usually will not be the manager of the IEA. However, the assessment manager/practitioner will need to work closely with the cartographer to make sure the maps you use harmonize with the core messages and results of the assessment.
Once spatial data are collected and analyzed, they are sent to a cartographic designer for further processing and refinement. This step involves transforming the data into a clear and efficient visual representation. Ideally, the figures should give an immediate message to the users, with no more than two or three items being presented. By reducing the number of categories, you simplify the information.
Box 8: Relationship of GIS and maps
Covered in more detail in Module 4, a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a geo-referenced database. It allows you to collect and archive a large amount of data both geographically and through time (vertically and horizontally). When all data are collected and sorted, a GIS allows a rapid visualization of phenomena by automatic plotting. Usually such analysis is appropriate only for “working documents” not for “publishable documents” or ones intended for the general public. A GIS is a database used for storage of a large amount of data, and is mainly used as an efficient tool for management (e.g., water or transport networks, marine resources, land cover, grazing area). We often extract information stored in a GIS to conceive and create derivative and simplified maps and graphics so that important messages and information can be conveyed an understood by a broader public. In this case, the GIS is a source of primary information to be synthesized and simplified for the production of thematic maps and graphics that can be published in books or on the Internet.
The process of making a map or producing graphics is related to several disciplines. Cartography relates to art, to science and to politics. By choosing certain colours, contrasts and movements, you both emphasize and ignore information. As a cartographer or a creator of graphics, you make more or less conscious selections at all stages of the process. Already, when you ask what should be communicated, you make your first selection. Just think of the associations that different colours give. Ask yourself what difference it will make if you give a region the colour red versus green, and if it makes a difference how you choose to use contrasts and movements.