Maps and detailed geographical information are needed for a range of purposes, from everyday use by individuals to large-scale industrial development.
Cartographers work within a variety of areas, including publishing, government, surveying and conservation. The role varies widely from the development and design of geographical information to more strategic and technical work.
The traditional methods employed in map-making have been superseded by the use of IT, enabling the generation and manipulation of dynamic images on screen. These developments have led to changes in the nature of the profession: within map-making, almost all the data is now collected and transmitted electronically, whereas in cartographic illustration the change has been less marked. In commercial cartographic publishing, the work has more in common with book publishing, requiring innovative design skills.
A cartographer's role can vary widely; from the technical role of the development, maintenance and manipulation of cartographic databases to the promotion of effective and efficient visualisation of geospatial information, to the design of bespoke maps.
A keen eye for detail and a methodical approach are required, as much of the work involves careful research, the collection and manipulation of data – much of which is now done electronically, and checking for accuracy. Another important part of a cartographer's role is liaising with external contacts regarding the supply of information, and with customers about their requirements.