Posted on Leave a comment

Got a Map for 2nd Edition of GIS Cartography?

GIS Cartography book cover

OCAD cartography in GIS Cartography book?

Gretchen Peterson, author of GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design is seeking well designed maps to feature in the 2nd edition of her book. So if you are particularly proud of one of your OCAD maps and have good feedback from users, then check out Gretchen’s call for submissions.

The key criterion must be great design but a map that is distinguished from the norm might well be a high value secondary consideration. Thus it strikes me that a greatly detailed orienteering map might distinguish itself from other great design submissions.

Interestingly the Atlas of Design which I also reviewed, featured just one down under map, the Marlborough Sounds. At first glance it resembled a New Zealand government topo map but closer examination showed many subtle yet significant improvements for its intended use as a wall map.

You are right if you think Gretchen’s name is familiar. She is also author of Cartographer’s Toolkit which I reviewed earlier this year. The book  featured as a popular OCAD bonus item some months back. Gretchen’s blog A Cartographer’s Toolkit is a favourite of mine.

Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review – Atlas of Design

Atlas of Design swirling seas

Why read Atlas of Design?

I’m not sure you would ‘read’ it. I rather think you would use it as a reference and/or have it grace a coffee table for the pleasure of returning to it from time to time. Certainly the cover, stark slate grey with a gunmetal number 1 (or perhaps more appropriately, the international symbol for turn on?) is very smart. Unfortunately fingerprints tend to show up for a while.

What might be in it for you?

Atlas ofDesign contents
Numbers relate to page numbers in text

New takes on classics

Such as p10, US highways. At first glance it is an extended London Tube map (1931, Harry Beck). And p36, Marlborough Sounds, must surely be a NZ government topo map? Subtly but definitely, no.

The new wave of popular prints?

Move over Monet, Manet, and Buffet. Surely these city maps composed of names will soon be adorning apartment walls. Modernity for the streets, rivers and parks of Washington D.C. on p4. Tradition through the first streets of Madison Wisconsin on p58 via signatures of the signers of the US constitution.

From form to function

Designed for a Brazilian annual report, the Hora Mundial (world time) map on p8 places Brazil at the centre of its world. It assailed me at first glance and I didn’t spend much time on it. But each time I look at it I discover more good design for its anticipated users.


There is imagination in every map in this book. If you can’t see it, just read the accompanying story of the map. But a few maps exemplify an imagineering approach. p28, eCartacoethes, is a series of this ilk. Melding the visual languages of electronic design and maps, the series is smart, amusing, and a few of the maps are initially realistic.

Williamette R

Art forms

◊ Extrapolated defines p20 (took me a few goes to divine this clever history)
Purposed p28
Re-purposed p31
Captured p70 — absolutely gorgeous, see portion at left.


The cold hand of death on p34 contrasts with the warm climes of p36 and gorgeous colour laid down on p68 — my 2nd favourite visually.


À la London Tube in curvaceous tendrils on p14. Graphic design melds with GIS on p50.


You won’t see this book the way I did. That scope for interpretation is what makes it so interesting. Don’t be misled by my selection above. There is no uninteresting map in this atlas.

Still, don’t rely solely on my opinion — that this atlas is in its 2nd printing, within a year of release, speaks well of its acceptance. It seems these maps indeed represent the editors’ opinion that —

[quote]To truly engage map users requires that we present them with something worth looking at.[/quote]

Atlas of Design, Volume One. Editors: Timothy R Wallace & Daniel P Huffman. Published by North American Cartographic Society (NACIS). 2012. US$35 +shipping.


Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review – Cartographer’s Toolkit

Cartographer's Toolkit book

Colours, Typography, Patterns

A toolkit it is. Supposedly only for those who have expert cartographic knowledge. I cannot lay claim to the latter (my only career regret), yet I am finding this toolkit very useful. In fact it lifted a mental block for me on one map. So unless you are a pure orienteering mapper, this toolkit is likely to have tools that you can reuse for both print and web cartography.

I have already reused colour palettes, acquired new fonts, used one composition pattern and admired the abstract art. Exactly as Gretchen N Peterson intended in her book Cartographer’s Toolkit | Colors, Typography, Patterns. She has carefully thought out and very successfully presented the chapter elements.

Colour Palettes

Colours sample
Colours sample

The Color palette chapter presents a series of harmonic colour sets. It encompasses coordinated, differentiated and colour ramp palettes. I lack colour smarts so this chapter has been a boon, enabling me to quickly test three likely colour palettes for a new trail map. Each of the 25 or so palettes comprises specifications of 10 colours, samples of usage and even a colour blindness simulation. The chapter is introduced by basic colour theory and practice.


Typeface sample
Typeface sample

Similarly, the Typography chapter is introduced by the basics of typography in cartography. While I knew of typeface x-heights through my print industry experience, I wasn’t aware of their relevance to cartography. Replacing OCAD’s default font Arial with a cartographic font, I was startled at how much better it looked on the map.

Fifty typefaces are listed across categories of standard (system), free and ‘for fee’ fonts. As with colours, each font is portrayed in a sample situation as well as alphabet and text. Some of these fonts are referred to in my previous post Cartography Typography for Neophytes.


Pattern sample
Pattern sample

The signal to noise ratio of the Composition Patterns chapter was far higher than I expected. At first glance I thought the chapter interesting but not too relevant to trail maps. How wrong. Applying a discontinuous frame to an orienteering event map enabled a useful bulge of content to be kept and the map still looked good.

Then line highlights provided a new slant on marking trail routes. Small multiples reminded me I could show enlargements of selected trails on some trail maps. And I really enjoy the intentional and unintentional art.

Maps show the way

And so does Gretchen Peterson. She has resoundingly accomplished her objective of providing tools for reuse. She has also given me pleasure in reading, re-reading, examining detail and re-examining.

In addition to her intended audience, I commend this book to amateur cartographers like myself who have an interest in improving. I cannot close better than by quoting from her introduction

This book enables the thinking cartographer to use colors and fonts deliberately, and it shares ideas for creating just the right layout compositions with just the right elements to create truly communicative and enduring maps. — Gretchen Peterson

Cartographer’s Toolkit | Colors, Typography, Patterns. Gretchen N Peterson. Published 2012 by PetersonGIS. Amazon US$35.

Gretchen Peterson’s informative blog A Cartographer’s Toolkit.

Posted on 3 Comments

Australia’s first topographic map

Newcastle 1913 topo

Newcastle 1913

The National Library of Australia has just released online Australia’s first topographic map. Newcastle 1913 was also the first inch to the mile (1:63,360) in Australia. It is termed a sketch map as triangulation had not been introduced at that stage.

You can also order a printed copy or even print a small copy on your home printer .

For more detail on the production of early topo maps in Australia Papua New Guinea and some islands, you might like to read

Australia's Military Map Makers book

Australia’s military map-makers : the Royal Australian Survey Corps 1915-96 by Coulthard-Clark, C. D. (Christopher David).

While it might seem a dry topic, if you are interested in maps generally, and especially if you have a military background, you could find this a good read as I did.

Map librarians

Wondering if there are better ways to preserve your personal, club’s, state’s, nation’s collection of orienteering or rogaining  maps?  Then tune in to the free webinar  Care and Feeding of Maps: Tips for Managing Your Map Collection

The presenter is Hallie Pritchett, Head, Map and Government Information, Library, University of Georgia

On Monday, March 18th, 2013, 1500-1600 EST, head to  No registration required.

Maps are an integral part of many library’s collections, but due to their unique needs and issues librarians and library staff members often fear them. This session will address and alleviate the concerns often associated with collecting and working with these valuable resources, offering advice on how to arrange, house, and maintain paper maps and providing an overview of resources for managing map collections of all shapes and sizes. Sponsored by ALA MAGIRT – the Map and Geospatial Information Round Table.

 Thanks to Brendan Whyte via ANZMapS for this info.