Research

We love cartography because it draws from art, science, and technology. In the Cart Lab, we conduct mixed-methods research on the design and use of maps and visualizations. Our research crosses theoretical, methodological, organizational, and technological dimensions of the discipline, and contributes to the sibling disciplines of geography, GIScience, human-computer interaction, information visualization, and visual analytics.

Cartographic Design

View all our work on cartographic design
Much of the empirical research in cartography over the past half century addressed representation design, evaluating how maps visually encode geographic information from perceptual, cognitive, and social/critical perspectives. We remain active in the study of cartographic design, particularly in the face of evolving mapping technologies and professional practices. Our recent research on cartographic representation includes aesthetics and style, bivariate and multivariate mapping, multiscale generalization, semiotics, terrain representation, and uncertainty visualization, among other topics.

Featured Projects in Cartographic Design

  1. Roth RE. (forthcoming) Visual variables In: The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, The Earth, Environment, and Technology. [uncorrected pre-print]
  2. Roth RE, AW Woodruff, and ZF Johnson. 2010. Value-by-alpha Maps: An alternative technique to the cartogram The Cartographic Journal. 47(2): 130-140. [uncorrected pre-print]
  3. Roth RE, CA Brewer, and MZ Stryker. 2011. A typology of operators for maintaining legible map designs at multiple scales Cartographic Perspectives. 60: 29-64. [open access]
  4. Elmer M. 2012. Symbol Considerations for Bivariate Thematic Mapping MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.
  5. Knoppke-Wetzel V. 2014. How technological changes aesthetically defined pre-1900s maps: A stylistic look at woodblock, copperplate, & lithograph print maps. MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.

User Experience & User Interface (UX/UI) Design

View all our work on UX/UI design
Increasingly, cartographers need both to encode geographic information as well as code a useful and usable interface for exploring the resulting maps. But interface design is much more than pushing 0s and 1s, and few time-tested principles exist to inform design of the user experience. Increasingly, we contribute to interaction science, approaching topics such as cartographic interaction primitives (i.e., the building blocks of an interactive map), interface flexibility versus constraint, user expertise and motivation, coordinated multiview geovisualization, and applications of interactive mapping to support geography.

Featured Projects in User Experience & User Interface (UX/UI) Design


  1. Roth RE. 2012. Cartographic Interaction Primitives: Framework and Synthesis The Cartographic Journal. 49(4):376-395. [uncorrected pre-print]
  2. Roth RE. 2012. Cartographic Interaction Primitives: Framework and Synthesis The Cartographic Journal. 49(4):376-395. [uncorrected pre-print]
  3. Roth RE. 2013. An empirically-derived taxonomy of interaction primitives for Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization Transactions on Visualization & Computer Graphics. 19(12): 2356-2365. [uncorrected pre-print]
  4. Vincent K. 2017. The Role of Cartographic Interface Complexity on Spatial Decision Making: A Case Study in the North American Hazardous Waste Trade | MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.
  5. Tolochko T. 2016. Contemporary Professional Practices in Interactive Web Map Design | MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.

Web & Mobile Map Design

View all our work on web & mobile map design
Interactive maps increasingly are used online or through mobile devices. Accordingly, much of the canon of cartographic design principles needs to be revised or completely rethought due to the contemporary design and use context. Our production, research, and education intersects at how we think about a web-enabled and mobile platform, pushing the boundaries of the underlying software and hardware technologies while considering new users and use contexts.

Featured Projects in Web & Mobile Map Design

  1. Roth RE, RG Donohue, CM Sack, T Wallace, and T Buckingham. 2014. Keeping pace with evolving open source web mapping technologies Cartographic Perspectives. 78: 25-52. [open access]
  2. Davidson B. 2014. Cartographic Design for Mobile Devices: A Case Study Using the UW-Madison Interactive Campus Map | Ms Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, Wi.
  3. Roth RE and M Harrower. 2008. Addressing map interface usability: Learning from the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Interactive Map Cartographic Perspectives. 60: 46-66. [open access]

Usability Engineering & User-centered Design

View all our work on usability engineering and user-centered design
We couple our interests in interactive, online, and mobile mapping with a methodological contribution on the process of map design. Design is a process, and the digital revolution has introduced new design considerations and metrics of success. We draw from usability engineering and user-centered design to streamline workflows for taking a design from concept to deployment. Further, we adapt methods pioneered in social science for the discount evaluation of maps, enabling rapid user feedback throughout the design process.

Featured Projects in Usability Engineering & User-centered Design

  1. Roth RE, KS Ross, and AM MacEachren. 2015. User-centered design for interactive maps: A case study in crime analysis International Journal of Geo-Information. 4(1): 262-301. [open access]
  2. Sack C. 2013. Mapmaking for Change: Online Participatory Mapping Tools for Revealing Landscape Values in the Bad River Watershed | MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.
  3. Roth RE and M Harrower. 2008. Addressing map interface usability: Learning from the Lakeshore Nature Preserve Interactive Map Cartographic Perspectives. 60: 46-66. [open access]
  4. Mead R. 2012. Expert Perspectives on the Design and Use of Learning Materials for Neocartographic Interfaces | MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.

Visual Storytelling

View all our work on visual storytelling

Featured Projects in Visual Storytelling

  1. Song Z. 2017. Map-Based Visual Storytelling: An Assessment of Emerging Genres and Tropes | MS Thesis in Cartography and GIS. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.

Pedagogical Research

View all our work on pedagogical research

Featured Projects in Pedagogical Research

  1. Roth RE and AM MacEachren. (forthcoming) Geovisual analytics and the science of interaction: An empirical study. Cartography and Geographic Information Science.
  2. Donohue R. 2014. Web Cartography with Web Standards:Teaching, Learning, and Using Open Source Web Mapping Technologies | PhD Dissertation in Philiosophy (Geography). University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.
  3. Sack C. 2018. Curriculum Development and Pedagogy for Teaching Web Mapping | PhD Dissertation in Philiosophy (Geography). University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, WI.


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