The transition from hand-drawn maps to computer-based mapping has made a big difference in both speed and presentation of data. However, it does lead to issues with the fact that data comes in a variety of spatial resolutions, and particularly so for digital elevation model (DEM) data. As an example, one can often see full-resolution SRTM data (~90m) plotted with that pixel scale for regional maps, where such detail is not necessary, but is done as a matter of convenience in many cases. Computing power now is at a level that handling very large raster files is not an issue, but deciding on the best resolution of data for the GIS project or map print out, is often overlooked.
This article highlights the use of a web-based, and Java application, that allows the user to refine the spatial scale of the data to the study at hand, and ultimately the final scale of your map. Ryan et al. (2009) devised a more systematic approach to topography (and bathymetric) data, to allow the pixel resolution to be a function of the area of interest; they derived synthesis of multi-resolution topography data termed "Global Multi-Resolution Topography" (GMRT).
Read the full article here: Visualization of Multi-Resolution Public-Domain DEM Data Using Surfer