GEOG 486
Cartography and Visualization

Part X: Output Specifications


Described simply, output specifications are the design constraints that you as a cartographer have to work within when designing your map. These constraints may be imposed upon you from outside (e.g., when the graphic designer who is creating the statistical graphics that will be integrated with text and your maps in a report decides that you have to use a particular color in your 1-color map) or they may be dictated by costs (e.g., your budget will only allow you to print in black-and-white rather than process color). Regardless of where the constraints come from, it is important to understand what they are before you start the design process. This will allow you to spend less time redesigning your map. You may find that when your boss asks you to produce a map on a particular topic, s/he will not provide you with a list of output specifications. It is your responsibility to ask questions that will give you this information, as your 'client' (e.g., your boss or the eventual map readers) may not know what you need to know to create an effective map.

It may be helpful to draw up a checklist of questions to ask. Here, we provide you with a list of some of the constraints that you may need to be aware of:

  • Map media (e.g., print, electronic, or both)
    • Map production equipment (e.g. will your map be professionally printed or photocopied?)
    • Requested file format
  • Color or black-and-white
    • Process color and/or spot color
    • Do you need to use Web-safe colors?
  • Page size (or image size for electronic media)
    • Margins
    • Resolution (especially for electronic media)
  • Audience constraints
    • What type of devices will the map be viewed on (e.g., PDA/cell phone or computer)?
    • Will your audience have special needs (e.g., color vision impairment or low vision)?