Cartography and Visualization

The Cartography & Visualization section encapsulates competencies related to the design and use of maps and mapping technology. This section covers core topics of reference and thematic maps design, as well as the emerging topics of interaction design, web map design, and mobile map design. This section also covers historical and contemporary influences on cartography and evolving data and critical considerations for map design and use.  

Topics in this Knowledge Area are listed thematically below. Existing topics are linked directly to either their original (2006) or revised entries; forthcoming, future topics are italicized. 

History & Trends:  Map Design Techniques:  Interactive Design Techniques: 
Cartography & Science Common Thematic Maps User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design
Cartography & Technology Bivariate & Multivariate Maps Web Mapping
Cartography & Power Mapping Time Virtual & Immersive Environments
Cartography & Education Mapping Uncertainty Big Data Visualization
Cartography & Art Terrain Representation Mobile Mapping & Responsive Design
Data Considerations: Cartograms Usability Engineering
Vector Formats & Sources Icon Design Basemaps
Raster Formats & Sources Narrative & Storytelling Geovisualization
Metadata, Quality, & Uncertainty Flow Maps Geocollaboration
Map Design Fundamentals:  Map Use:  Geovisual Analytics
Scale & Generalization Map Reading  
Statistical Mapping Map Interpretation  
Geodesy, Coordinate Systems, & Projections Map Analysis  
Visual Hierarchy, Layout, & Map Elements User-Centered Design & Evaluation  
Symbolization & the Visual Variables Political Economy of Mapping  
Color Theory Map Critique  
Aesthetics & Design    
Map Production and Management    


CV-06 - Map Projections

Map projection is the process of transforming angular (spherical / elliptical) coordinates into planar coordinates. All map projections introduce distortion (e.g., to areas, angles, distances) in the resulting planar coordinates. Understanding what, where, and how much distortion is introduced is an important consideration for spatial computations and visual interpretation of spatial patterns, as well as for general aesthetics of any map.  

CV-21 - Map reading
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using conventional symbols (e.g., blue=water, green=vegetation, Swiss cross=a hospital) on a map
  • Find specified features on a topographic map (e.g., gravel pit, mine entrance, well, land grant)
  • Match map labels to the corresponding features
  • Match the symbols on a map to the corresponding explanations in the legend
  • Execute a well designed legend that facilitates map reading
  • Explain how the anatomy of the eye and its visual sensor cells affect how one sees maps in terms of attention, acuity, focus, and color
  • Explain how memory limitations effect map reading tasks
CV-17 - Mapping Time
  • Describe how the adding time-series data reveals or does not reveal patterns not evident in a cross-sectional data
  • Describe how an animated map reveals patterns not evident without animation
  • Demonstrate how Bertin’s “graphic variables” can be extended to include animation effects
  • Create a temporal sequence representing a dynamic geospatial process
CV-18 - Mapping Uncertainty
  • Describe a technique that can be used to represent the value of each of the components of data quality (positional and attribute accuracy, logical consistency, and completeness)
  • Apply multivariate and dynamic visualization methods to display uncertainty in data
  • Sketch a map with a reliability overlay using symbols suited to reliability representations
  • Develop graphic techniques that clearly show different forms of inexactness (e.g., existence uncertainty, boundary location uncertainty, attribute ambiguity, transitional boundary) of a given feature (e.g., a culture region)
CV-25 - Metadata, Quality, and Uncertainty
  • Describe a scenario in which possible errors in a map may impact subsequent decision making, such as a land use decision based on a soils map
  • Evaluate the uncertainty inherent in a map
  • Compare the decisions made using a map with a reliability overlay from those made using a map pair separating data and reliability, both drawn from the same dataset
  • Critique the assumption that maps can or should be “accurate”
CV-20 - Raster Formats and Sources
  • Explain how color fastness and color consistency are ensured in map production
  • Compare outputs of the same map at various low and high resolutions
  • Differentiate among the various raster map outputs (JPEG, GIF, TIFF) and various vector formats (PDF, Adobe Illustrator Postscript)
  • Compare and contrast the file formats suited to presentation of maps on the Web to those suited to publication in high resolution contexts
  • Compare and contrast the issues that arise for map production using black-and-white and fourcolor process specifications
  • Outline the process for the digital production of offset press printed maps, including reference to feature and color separates, feature and map composites, and resolution
  • Critique typographic integrity in export formats (e.g., some file export processes break type into letters degrading searchability, font processing, and reliability of Raster Image Processing)
  • Prepare a map file for CMYK publication in a book
  • Prepare a map file for RGB presentation on a Web site
  • Discuss the purpose of advanced production methods (e.g., stochastic screening, hexachrome color, color management and device profiles, trapping, overprinting)
CV-04 - Scale and Generalization
Scale and generalization are two fundamental, related concepts in geospatial data. Scale has multiple meanings depending on context, both within geographic information science and in other disciplines. Typically it refers to relative proportions between objects in the real world and their representations. Generalization is the act of modifying detail, usually reducing it, in geospatial data. It is often driven by a need to represent data at coarsened resolution, being typically a consequence of reducing representation scale. Multiple computations and graphical modication processes can be used to achieve generalization, each introducing increased abstraction to the data, its symbolization, or both.
CV-05 - Statistical Mapping (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification, Dasymetric)
  • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of various data classification methods for choropleth mapping, including equal interval, quantiles, mean-standard deviation, natural breaks, and “optimal” methods
  • Demonstrate how different classification schemes produce very different maps from a single set of interval- or ratio-level data
  • Write algorithms to perform equal interval, quantiles, mean-standard deviation, natural breaks, and “optimal” classification for choropleth mapping
CV-08 - Symbolization and the Visual Variables

Maps communicate information about the world by using symbols to represent specific ideas or concepts. The relationship between a map symbol and the information that symbol represents must be clear and easily interpreted. The symbol design process requires first an understanding of the underlying nature of the data to be mapped (e.g., its spatial dimensions and level of measurement), then the selection of symbols that suggest those data attributes. Cartographers developed the visual variable system, a graphic vocabulary, to express these relationships on maps. Map readers respond to the visual variable system in predictable ways, enabling mapmakers to design map symbols for most types of information with a high degree of reliability.

CV-14 - Terrain Representation
  • Describe situations in which methods of terrain representation (e.g., shaded relief, contours, hypsometric tints, block diagrams, profiles) are well suited
  • Create a map that represents both slope and aspect on the same map using the Moellering-Kimerling coloring method
  • Explain how maps that show the landscape in profile can be used to represent terrain
  • Differentiate 3-D representations from 21/2-D representations
  • Describe situations in which methods of terrain representation are poorly suited