Stiff believes that we amateurs have something to teach the pros. Our maps are efficient—they edit out unnecessary information. They often include what Stiff calls "an error detector, something that tells you something's gone wrong." (If you see the red barn, you've gone too far.) They adhere not to mapmaking norms but to the user's particular needs.These maps are generally made for only one use, and are precisely relevant for the person for whom they are drawn and for no one else.
The maps we draw for one another also have a certain ephemeral beauty. Each map is the product of a conversation. While most professional maps serve "countless numbers of people who have countless purposes," Stiff says, maps like these are "made for an audience of one." Examining these bits of personal cartography—studying the ways "we edit, we twist, we rearrange, supportively"—can teach us how humans really perceive and understand maps.And understanding how human understand maps is extremely important for cartographers, like me, to communicate by the way of our maps.
This article is from the very interesting six parts series from Slate: Signs 2010 - How they tell us where to go. - (Slate Magazine). A must read.