Cartography (the art and science of making maps) has been democratized over the past five or so years. You no longer need to turn to a graphic designer, GIS technician, or cartographer when you need a map. Thanks to MapQuest, Google Earth, and a host of do-it-yourself map Web sites and programs, it's simple and easy for anyone to create a map.
Just because you have access to the tools though, doesn't necessarily mean you can produce National Geographic quality maps. There are a number of design rules you need to know to make top-notch, usable maps. Designers and map-makers who support the citizen cartographer movement are starting to become hip to this, and are offering user-friendly tools that non-designers can use to make professional quality maps.
An example of this is Safety Maps
. This slick, free Web site allows you to create a map that tells where to meet during an emergency. You specify a location, write up instructions, and the site creates a PDF file map (based on Open Street Map
data). Print the file, cut out the wallet-sized maps, and share them with friends, family, or co-workers (you can even have the site email a copy of the map to people). It's a great idea, executed quite well. And very applicable to humanitarian safety and security work. Check it out and spread the word...