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-24 - User-Centered Design and Evaluation
  • Describe the baseline expectations that a particular map makes of its audience
  • Compare and contrast the interpretive dangers (e.g., ecological fallacy, Modifiable Areal Unit Problem) that are inherent to different types of maps or visualizations and their underlying geographic data
  • Identify several uses for which a particular map is or is not effective
  • Identify the particular design choices that make a map more or less effective
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a map for its audience and purpose
  • Design a testing protocol to evaluate the usability of a simple graphical user interface
  • Perform a rigorous sampled field check of the accuracy of a map
  • Discuss the use limitations of the USGS map accuracy standards for a range of projects demanding different levels of precision (e.g., driving directions vs. excavation planning)
CV-03 - Vector Formats and Sources
  • List the data required to explore a specified problem
  • Discuss the extent, classification, and currency of government data sources and their influence on mapping
  • List the data required to compile a map that conveys a specified message
  • Discuss the issue of conflation of data from different sources or for different uses as it relates to mapping
  • Describe a situation in which it would be acceptable to use smaller-scale data sources for compilation to compile a larger scale map
  • Describe the copyright issues involved in various cartographic source materials
  • Explain how data acquired from primary sources, such as satellite imagery and GPS, differ from data compiled from maps, such as DLGs
  • Explain how digital data compiled from map sources influences how subsidiary maps are compiled and used
  • Explain how geographic names databases (i.e., gazetteer) are used for mapping
  • Explain how the inherent properties of digital data, such as Digital Elevation Models, influence how maps can be compiled from them
  • Identify the types of attributes that will be required to map a particular distribution for selected geographic features
  • Determine the standard scale of compilation of government data sources
  • Assess the data quality of a source dataset for appropriateness for a given mapping task, including an evaluation of the data resolution, extent, currency or date of compilation, and level of generalization in the attribute classification
  • Compile a map using at least three data sources
CV-16 - Virtual and immersive environments
  • Discuss the nature and use of virtual environments, such as Google Earth
  • Explain how various data formats and software and hardware environments support immersive visualization
  • Compare and contrast the relative advantages of different immersive display systems used for cartographic visualization (e.g., CAVEs, GeoWalls)
  • Evaluate the extent to which a GeoWall or CAVE does or does not enhance understanding of spatial data
  • Explain how the virtual and immersive environments become increasingly more complex as we move from the relatively non-immersive VRML desktop environment to a stereoscopic display (e.g., a GeoWall) to a more fully immersive CAVE
CV-07 - Visual Hierarchy, Layout, and Map Elements
  • List the major factors that should be considered in preparing a map
  • Discuss how to create an intellectual and visual hierarchy on maps
  • Discuss the differences between maps that use the same data but are for different purposes and intended audiences
  • Discuss Tufte’s influence (or lack thereof) on cartographic design
  • Critique the graphic design of several maps in terms of balance, legibility, clarity, visual contrast, figure-ground organization, and hierarchal organization
  • Critique the layout of several maps, taking into account the map audience and purpose and the graphic design (visual balance, hierarchy, figure-ground), as well as the map components (north arrow, scale bar, and legend)
  • Design maps that are appropriate for users with vision limitations
  • Apply one or more Gestalt principles to achieve appropriate figure-ground for map elements
  • Prepare different map layouts using the same map components (main map area, inset maps, titles, legends, scale bars, north arrows, grids, and graticule) to produce maps with very distinctive purposes
  • Prepare different maps using the same data for different purposes and intended audiences (e.g., expert and novice hikers)
  • Describe differences in design needed for a map that is to be viewed on the Internet versus as a 5-by 7-foot poster, including a discussion of the effect of viewing distance, lighting, and media type
  • Describe the design needs of special purpose maps, such as subdivision plans, cadastral mapping, drainage plans, nautical charts, aeronautical charts, geological maps, military maps, wiremesh volume maps, and 3-D plans of urban change
CV-15 - Web mapping
  • Construct a Web page that includes an interactive map
  • Describe considerations for using maps on the Web as a method for downloading data
  • Critique the user interface for existing Internet mapping services
  • Edit the symbology, labeling, and page layout for a map originally designed for hard copy printing so that it can be seen and used on the Web
  • Discuss the influence of the user interface on maps and visualizations on the Web