GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design

Maps, either printed or digital, can create effective communication with bosses, clients, other scientists, and the public. However, entry-level GISers often find that map design was given short shrift in their pre-professional life. It is time for the GIS field, which is becoming mature in other ways, to increase its skills in this area. Based on the author's more-than-ten years of research and practice in map design, GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design provides the tools to create truly sophisticated maps.

Packed full of in-depth information and advice, this book covers all facets of map creation. Copiously illustrated in color, it covers classic cartographic standards, such as colors and fonts, data-specific mapping techniques, methods to aid in the cultivation of creative skills, and recommendations for novel design approaches. Featuring a down-to-earth writing style, the book includes a layout element checklist, font size charts, geologic color standards, file format pros and cons, and example layout designs.

The book does not focus on any particular software platform, and therefore does not contain the traditional screen shot format with "click on this" and "use this menu" type of instructions. The format allows the guide to be used with any map-making software. The author draws on classic map design concepts, the latest design theory, and other disciplines, demonstrating how to create end results that are what maps ought to be: clear, informative, and uniquely suited to their purpose.

A few things have changed since the book's publication.

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"Once I finished the book, I began noticing an astonishingly large volume of maps that did not follow her advice, and I could easily see where they could be improved."

The Summit (p6), Summer, 2009
News From and For The Washington GIS Community
WAURISA, The Washington State Chapter of URISA — The Association for GIS Professionals

"This is first and foremost a practical book for GIS professionals who manage geospatial data, perform analyses on a daily basis, and must produce maps that truthfully portray information in an accessible and (hopefully) artful way.

The author, like many readers of this book, came to her position with some design experience but no formal training in cartography. GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design is not a how-to book in the classic sense and is not tied to a specific GIS software package. While the tone is relaxed and at times humorous, the author is serious when she stresses the importance of taking the time and making the effort to design better maps. The bulk of the book systematically explains cartographic conventions and explores strategies for solving specific mapmaking challenges as they relate to layout design, color, features, and media. Throughout, Peterson urges readers to carefully consider the map viewer whenever designing a map and to continue learning, observing, and experimenting."

ArcUser (p55), the Magazine for LSRI Software Users, Fall, 2009

"Gretchen's book is something that you can use almost anywhere with any medium and won't get out of date. That is a great value that most technical computing books overlook. GIS Cartography is a great resource to have and one that I'm glad that I have in my technical library."

James Fee GIS Blog

"The book is a great read from front to back; however, you can pick and choose to read the chapters you want. I highly recommend this book for its reading ease, valuable information, and current applicable techniques."

"In short, this is a valuable book to skim through and then keep nearby while designing maps by hand or with a GIS. While focusing on some best practices, Peterson regularly invites users to think and design outside the box."

Directions Magazine, All Things Location, June, 2009

"The map below, which I borrowed from Gretchen Peterson's excellent new book GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design, illustrates the use of color intensity for displaying quantities."

"Introduction to Geographical Data Visualization" (p4),
 Stephen Few
 Perceptual Edge, Visual Business Intelligence Newsletter
 March/April, 2009


"Once I finished the book, I began noticing an astonishingly large volume of maps that did not follow her advice, and I could easily see where they could be improved."
  - The Summit, WAURISA newsletter (p6)

An "excellent new book"
  - Stephen Few, Perceptual Edge (p4)