University of Wisconsin–Madison

Geography 572

Graphic Design in Cartography

Faculty Contact: Robert Roth, PhD


office: 375 Science Hall

Course Overview

Geography 572 (G572) provides an extended examination of advanced topics regarding cartographic representation, or the graphics, sounds, haptics, etc., constituting maps that are employed to encode geographic information. G572 is a direct extension of the G370 course, but with a focus on cartographic design for the web rather than print, and draws upon research and practice on graphic design, information visualization, and semiotics. Specifically, G572 emphasizes mapmaking over map use (compared to G170) and the design of web-delivered maps themselves, rather than the design of interfaces to these maps (compared to G575).

The lecture component of the course is designed to shed light on the question ‘How maps work?’. Lecture material is organized into three primary sections: (1) How maps are seen, drawing on theory from visual perception; (2) How maps are understood, drawing on theory from visual and spatial cognition; and (3) How maps become meaningful, drawing on theory from semiotics as well as artistic and ethical epistemologies. Most lectures span multiple days, with the opening material introducing an influential theory relating to one of these three components and the subsequent material presented as discussion on how such theory informs (or confuses) one or several topics regarding cartographic design. Throughout, the broader context—or perhaps implicit subtext—of the course is visual storytelling, with an ‘eye’ towards the fundamental changes occurring to map design as the world comes online.

The laboratory component of the course emphasizes the practical skills needed to design maps for the web. Following an introduction to HTML5/CSS3, 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 Adobe Photoshop (for graphic design) and NotePad++ (for HTML5/CSS3 markup and styling); by the end of the course, it is expected that you will have operational-to-proficient knowledge of both software applications as well as web design in HTML5/C333. 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 web portfolio, which contains your G370 and G572 labs, revised according to our feedback; the overarching goal of the web portfolio is to assist in securing employment following your university studies.