Cartography (from Greek χάρτης khartēs, "map"; and γράφειν graphein, "write") is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.
The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:
- Set the map's agenda and select traits of the object to be mapped. This is the concern of map editing. Traits may be physical, such as roads or land masses, or may be abstract, such as toponyms or political boundaries.
- Represent the terrain of the mapped object on flat media. This is the concern of map projections.
- Eliminate characteristics of the mapped object that are not relevant to the map's purpose. This is the concern of generalization.
- Reduce the complexity of the characteristics that will be mapped. This is also the concern of generalization.
- Orchestrate the elements of the map to best convey its message to its audience. This is the concern of map design.
- Modern cartography constitutes many theoretical and practical foundations of geographic information systems.