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 in regular font and linked directly to their original entries (published in 2006; these contain only Learning Objectives). Entries that have been updated and expanded are in bold. 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 Spatio-Temporal Representation Virtual & Immersive Environments
Cartography & Education Representing Uncertainty Big Data Visualization
Cartography & Art Terrain Representation Mobile Maps & Responsive Design
Data Considerations: Cartograms Usability Engineering & Evaluation
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 (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification) Map Interpretation  
Map Projections Map Analysis  
Visual Hierarchy & Layout Political Economy of Mapping  
Symbolization & the Visual Variables Map Critique  
Color Theory    
Typography    
Aesthetics & Design    
Map Production and Management    

 

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-17 - Spatiotemporal Representation

Space and time are integral components of geographic information. There are many ways in which to conceptualize space and time in the geographic realm that stem from time geography research in the 1960s. Cartographers and geovisualization experts alike have grappled with how to represent spatiotemporal data visually. Four broad types of mapping techniques allow for a variety of representations of spatiotemporal data: (1) single static maps, (2) multiple static maps, (3) single dynamic maps, and (4) multiple dynamic maps. The advantages and limitations of these static and dynamic methods are discussed in this entry. For cartographers, identifying the audience and purpose, medium, available data, and available time to design the map are vital aspects to deciding between the different spatiotemporal mapping techniques. However, each of these different mapping techniques offers its own advantages and disadvantages to the cartographer and the map reader. This entry focuses on the mapping of time and spatiotemporal data, the types of time, current methods of mapping, and the advantages and limitations of representing spatiotemporal data.

CV-05 - Statistical Mapping (Enumeration, Normalization, Classification)

Proper communication of spatial distributions, trends, and patterns in data is an important component of a cartographers work. Geospatial data is often large and complex, and due to inherent limitations of size, scalability, and sensitivity, cartographers are often required to work with data that is abstracted, aggregated, or simplified from its original form. Working with data in this manner serves to clarify cartographic messages, expedite design decisions, and assist in developing narratives, but it also introduces a degree of abstraction and subjectivity in the map that can make it easy to infer false messages from the data and ultimately can mislead map readers. This entry introduces the core topics of statistical mapping around cartography. First, we define enumeration and the aggregation of data to units of enumeration. Next, we introduce the importance of data normalization (or standardization) to more truthfully communicate cartographically and, lastly, discuss common methods of data classification and how cartographers bin data into groups that simplify communication.

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

Terrain representation is the manner by which elevation data are visualized. Data are typically stored as 2.5D grid representations, including digital elevation models (DEMs) in raster format and triangulated irregular networks (TINs). These models facilitate terrain representations such as contours, shaded relief, spot heights, and hypsometric tints, as well as automate calculations of surface derivatives such as slope, aspect, and curvature. 3D effects have viewing directions perpendicular (plan), parallel (profile), or panoramic (oblique view) to the elevation’s vertical datum plane. Recent research has focused on automating, stylizing, and enhancing terrain representations. From the user’s perspective, representations of elevation are measurable or provide a 3D visual effect, with much overlap between the two. The ones a user can measure or derive include contours, hypsometric tinting, slope, aspect, and curvature. Other representations focus on 3D effect and may include aesthetic considerations, such as hachures, relief shading, physiographic maps, block diagrams, rock drawings, and scree patterns. Relief shading creates the 3D effect using the surface normal and illumination vectors with the Lambertian assumption. Non-plan profile or panoramic views are often enhanced by vertical exaggeration. Cartographers combine techniques to mimic or create mapping styles, such as the Swiss-style.

CV-10 - Typography

The selection of appropriate type on maps, far from an arbitrary design decision, is an integral part of establishing the content and tone of the map. Typefaces have personalities, which contribute to the rhetorical message of the map. It is important to understand how to assess typefaces for their personalities, but also to understand which typefaces may be more or less legible in a labeling context. Beyond the choice of typeface, effective map labels will have a visual hierarchy and allow the user to easily associate labels to their features and feature types. The cartographer must understand and modify typographic visual variables to support both the hierarchy and label-feature associations.

CV-38 - Usability Engineering & Evaluation

In this entry, we introduce tenets of usability engineering (UE) and user-centered design (UCD), interrelated approaches to ensuring that a map or visualization works for the target use. After a general introduction to these concepts and processes, we then discuss treatment of UE and UCD in research on cartography and geographic visualization. Finally, we present a classification of UE evaluation methods, including a general overview of each category of method and their application to cartographic user research.  

CV-13 - User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) Design

Advances in personal computing and information technologies have fundamentally transformed how maps are produced and consumed, as many maps today are highly interactive and delivered online or through mobile devices. Accordingly, we need to consider interaction as a fundamental complement to representation in cartography and visualization. UI (user interface) / UX (user experience) describes a set of concepts, guidelines, and workflows for critically thinking about the design and use of an interactive product, map or otherwise. This entry introduces core concepts from UI/UX design important to cartography and visualization, focusing on issues related to visual design. First, a fundamental distinction is made between the use of an interface as a tool and the broader experience of an interaction, a distinction that separates UI design and UX design. Norman’s stages of interaction framework then is summarized as a guiding model for understanding the user experience with interactive maps, noting how different UX design solutions can be applied to breakdowns at different stages of the interaction. Finally, three dimensions of UI design are described: the fundamental interaction operators that form the basic building blocks of an interface, interface styles that implement these operator primitives, and recommendations for visual design of an interface.

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

In the last ten years, the rise of efficient computing devices with significant processing power and storage has caused a surge in digital data collection and publication. As more software programs and hardware devices are released, we are not only seeing an increase in available data, but also an increase in available data formats. Cartographers today have access to a wide range of interesting datasets, and online portals for downloading geospatial data now frequently offer that data in several different formats. This chapter provides information useful to modern cartographers working with vector data, including an overview of common vector data formats (e.g. shapefile, GeoJSON, file geodatabase); their relative benefits, idiosyncrasies, and limitations; and a list of popular sources for geospatial vector data (e.g. United States Census Bureau, university data warehouses).

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