Cartographic Resources

Caitlin Dempsey


Learn how to really display your spatial information and create well designed, informative maps. Access this collection of resources on how to display colors, create an amazing map layout, and what geospatial information to show.

Cartographic Design and Map Making

What’s in a Map?
What really makes a map? Find out the required elements that should be placed on all maps you make.

Ten Things to Consider When Making a Map?
Before you make a map, consider these ten areas of consideration.

Making Maps Easier to Read
Synthesis of research project on visualization concepts in map making.

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To North Arrow or Not to North Arrow
When does a map need a north arrow?  Understand the reasons why or why not to include a north arrow on a map.

Cartographic Technique Resources

Dotting the Dot Map
If you’ve ever been curious about how to precisely size your dot density map, this PDF presentation by A. Jon Kimmerling of Oregon State University provides a detailed and mathematical approach to calculating the most appropriate size when creating a dot density map.  Dotting the Dot Map, Revisited

The Art of Spatial Information Design

Power of Mapping
Maps are a powerful tool in spatial analysis, helping problem solvers on many levels.

Area Cartogram Maps Explored
Learn about the different types of area cartograms: contiguous, non-contiguous, and Dorling.

Spatial Unmapped
Think you need to create a map to display geographic information?  Think again.  This article provides innovate examples of geographic information displayed in other ways.

How Useful is Tufte for Making Maps?
John Krygier, in a post called “How Useful is Tufte for Making Maps?“, takes a look at Edward Tufte’s visual design book, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” from the viewpoint of how helpful it is in map making.

Relief Shading
Relief shading involves the use of shadows to emphasize the topography of a terrain. In GIS, most often this involves the use of a digital elevation model (DEM) that has undergone a technique called hillshading. The variation in shadowing gives the elevation a 3D effect and helps put into context how hilly or flat a geographic area is. There are different methods for achieving a shaded relief map and resources for understanding this cartographic technique are listed here.

TypeBrewer is a Flash application that “offers a quick and easy way to explore typographic alternatives and see the impact that various elements of type have on the overall look and feel of a map.”  The application allows your to play around with different fonts, sizes, label densities and font tracking to get a better understanding of how different fonts will look on a map.  Users can select between classic, formal, informal and contemporary style labeling. Click on the “learn more” link to see a brief outline of typography on maps. Once you’ve played around with TypeBrewer take the survey and provide your input. (Seen via The Map Room)

Cartographic Appreciation

Collecting Antique Maps – A Beginner’s Guide
Learn how to get into the antique map collection field through this article by Neil Street of

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.