University of Wisconsin–Madison

Geography 370

Introduction to Cartography

Faculty Contact: Robert Roth, PhD


office: 375 Science Hall

Course Overview

Geography 370 (G370) provides a general introduction to Cartography, broadly defined as the art, science, and ethics of mapmaking and map use. G370—and the UW Cartography curriculum generally—focuses upon the design of maps, drawing from research and practice on graphic design, information visualization, and semiotics, perspectives that you are unlikely to receive in other GIS courses. Specifically, G370 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and print mapping over web-based or interactive mapping (compared to G572 and G575, respectively).

The lecture component of the course covers the extant cartographic theories and prior cartographic success stories that are important for thinking critically about the design of maps. Lecture material is presented as a series of cartographic guidelines—developed through both scientific inquiry and time-tested convention—and associated examples illustrating the range of potential design solutions. Lectures are discriminated by topics that traditionally fall under reference mapping (Weeks #1-5) and topics that traditionally fall under thematic mapping (Weeks #6-13), although, as you will see, this is an imperfect distinction. As an introductory course, you are tested on your knowledge of and conformance to the cartographic guidelines discussed in lecture; however, by the end of the course, you will have an understanding about when these rules should be followed directly and when you can bend (or even break) these rules to improve your map.

The laboratory component of the course emphasizes the practical skills needed to make maps. Each lab assignment requires you to grapple with a topic previously discussed in lecture, with the final map deliverable representing your critical thinking about the topic. The labs leverage the ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator software packages; by the end of the course, it is expected that you will have operational-to-proficient knowledge of both packages, as applied for map design, and that you can indicate such on a résumé. Following the series of lab assignments, you are required to design a final project map on a topic of your choosing. Creativity and ingenuity are strongly encouraged in the conceptualization and execution of the final project. The final project is submitted as the closing entry in a larger map portfolio, which also contains your labs, revised according to our feedback; the overarching goal of the map portfolio is to assist in securing employment following your university studies.