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Learn Cartography for Free

Cartographic design is something I see being overlooked quite often. Maps contain so much information; they can tell us a story, understand the world better, and help us make better decisions. Most of it seems straight forward, and with the development of new technologies, practically anybody can make a map. Like many things, good cartography is something that you learn by practicing and getting feedback so that the fundamentals become intuitive. As we get thrown into other tasks, it’s easy to focus on other aspects more and forget what and how you are trying to communicate with to the audience. Take for example 27 Hilariously Bad Maps that Explain Nothing. We will go through a few free resources to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes! There will also be links to design resources as well.


This shows why colour theory is important!


Here are a few favourites from GIS Lounge
GIS Lounge is one of my the best websites to get GIS knowledge from.
1. Ten Things to Consider When Making a Map
2. Principles of Cartographic Design
3. TypeBrewer helps you save time when thinking of the typography on your map!
4. Relief Shading gives a plethora of information about shaded relief.

Here are a few favourites from ESRI Mapping Center
1. ColorPicker is great when you want to choose a spectrum of colours
2. ScaleMaster contains a very useful Excel file (scroll to the bottom) to help you plan out scale factors when making a map.
3. A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods is a fun and interactive way which uses visuals to teach you about visuals (it’s better to see it than read about it!)

Penn State offers part of their Cartography and Visualisation course online

There cannot be proper cartography without Geography! Geography Now is a relatively new Youtube channel that attempts to go through the geography of each country by alphabetical order. It goes from explaining the flag, physical and human geography, culture, demographics… and it’s filled with fun animations! I highly recommend you to check it out.

Karen Kavett does a variety of Youtube videos about graphic design, art, and DIY projects. In her large selection of videos, she goes through concepts such as typographycolour theory, and graphic design.

Smashing Magazine is practically a bible when it comes to coding and design. There is a lot of reference material but also articles to make you think critically about your work.

That’s probably enough to keep the aspiring cartographer busy for a while. That being said, don’t be intimidated! The big takeaway should be that you should step back to see if the map makes sense or ask somebody – especially a non-cartographer! Don’t have the tools? Try Datawrapper for free. It’s an open source program that many outlets use to create visuals and maps.


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Be a Hipster, buy a map. Ordnance Survey increases sales of paper maps after decade of decline.


We live in the digital era. Everything is online. We’re constantly connected. We shop, we meet, we exist virtually. But after couple of years of life among gadgets I started to feel a growing need of becoming more analogue again. Let me give you an example. When I got an iPad I started to read all books on the tablet. Than I decided to switch to Kindle which was more convenient due to e-paper technology. Today I read all my books in a printed versions. The technology couldn’t make up for the experience of touching and smelling the actual paper. I had a similar experience with maps especially during hiking trips. Over the years I have been testing a lot of different mapping apps which would enhance my real-life experience in mountains. They were helpful to position myself in the field but non of them could actually replace the traditional paper map.

It seems that it’s not only my personal experience. Ufff. Ordnance Survey – British official mapping agency reported that the first time since 10 years their map sales revenue increased. They sold 3% more paper maps in 2014 than a year earlier and the increase is continuing, with a 7% rise this financial year. Nick Giles, managing director of Ordnance Survey Leisure, commented:

It’s great to see that sales of paper maps are increasing. We understand that the increase isn’t huge; however, the significant news is the downward trend has been reversed.

Of course one could argue that the sales of paper maps decreased so drastically that it would be quite easy to get any increase but I believe that there are a couple of other reasons. First of all there is certain sentiment associated with using paper maps. Most of us still remember times when there were no smartphones or PNDs. Somehow we’ve also managed to get from A to B without any problems.

Secondly I believe that in many cases paper maps are simply much more convenient than using a smartphone. Traditional maps don’t require a battery or a 3G reception. Moreover the large format gives you a better perspective of space around you than 4 a tiny smartphone screen. Finally using paper maps is simply much more hipster/lumber than carrying an iPhone in your hand. Don’t you think?

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