Monday, January 27, 2014

Cartography Student Spotlight

GIS3015 Cartographic Skills, Instructor, Mrs. Penelope Bishop Mitchell

Map Critique

Lab description - In this lab students were required to apply the map design principles learned in the lecture to identify and critique examples of good and bad maps.  

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Review common map design principles
  • Identify examples of good and bad map design
  • Compare, contrast, and summarize key elements of good and poor map design


    The following students were chosen for their exception work on the Map Critique assignment:

    Gail Sease

    About Gail: Gail lives in Bakersfield, CA has earned BS and MS degrees in geology but has not worked as a geologist for a long time.   Her occupations over the last 20 years have included oil company geologist, junior college geology instructor, Spanish student, teacher of middle school and high school Spanish, biology and geology, school librarian and school secretary.  Before moving to Bakersfield in 2011, she lived with her family in Bogotá, Colombia and Tripoli, Libya for 8 years.  Gail would like to get back into the oil and gas or minerals industries and is seeking to bring her skills up to date.  GIS expertise is extremely valuable in these and many other fields.  Her sister is currently working on her internship at UWF's GIS Master's certification program and her experiences have convinced Gail that it will be an excellent opportunity. Congratulations Gail, and Welcome to the Spotlight!

    What we like: Gail was chosen as a spotlight as she applied lecture concepts and assignment directions to a T!  Not only were Gail’s map choices right on, but her critiques were well written and utilized the design principles to skillfully analyze her maps.  In addition to this, Gail’s blog post is exemplary.  She introduced the assignment in a clear, succinct, and professional manner; provided both map images and critiques; and has the post neatly labeled under Cartographic Skills so it can easily be found.  Well done Gail!!

    A Well-Designed Map of Easter Island
         This map of Easter Island is well designed because it satisfies several Tufteism principles of map design.  It follows Principles #1 , #2 and #3 in that it is a well-designed presentation of interesting data, and immediately shows us that most of the statues and ruins lie along the coast, and that there are at least two mountains on the island. In addition, the map and its legend efficiently draw the eye to the most prominent and well-known cultural features on Easter Island, those that visitors are most likely to want to visit.   The features (moai, petroglyphs, etc.) are clearly and simply represented by symbols that are easy to identify and remember, and they are also labeled on the map by name (Principles #7 and #8), as are the more general areas of the island.  The roads, tracks, and settled places, which the visitors will need to know about in order to access the sites, are clearly indicated.  The index map locating the map in the Pacific Ocean also contributes to the map’s effective presentation of information.   The map follows #4 in that the data is multivariate.  Not only does the map clarify various cultural features of Easter Island, it also is a topographic map done in an intuitive and attractive color scheme, so the visitors can get a good idea of the terrain.   The index map offers additional data dimension.  Finally, the map adheres to Principle #5 and tells the truth, in that it gives the visitor an accurate portrayal of what they can expect from the island, culturally, topographically, and geographically.
    A Poorly-Designed Map about Sit-Coms in the United States
         This map about sit-coms and the United States has several flaws in its design.  Two related Tufte principles that it does not follow are #7 and #8: it is ambiguous in that it does not explain the relationships between the T.V. shows in the lists and the parts of the country in which the lists are displayed.  We are left to wonder, for example, are these the favorite T.V. shows in different parts of the country?  Or, do the story lines of those shows takes place in those areas?  There are no explanatory notes. The map also violates Principle #7 when it assigns different colors to the states.  This scheme apparently has nothing to do with the data, but seems to have been done solely to add some variety to the design.  This color scheme thus also violates Tufteism #9 (show data variation, not design variation) and #11 (two dimensions, regions of the country and color of state, exceed or do not correspond to the single dimension of the data, which (we assume, but don’t know for sure) is T.V. show setting.

    Laura Simpkins

    About Laura: Laura lives in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia with her husband and 2 kitties. She has an undergraduate degree in environmental science from University of Mary Washington in Virgina. Laura has interned with the park service at Grand Canyon NP and worked for the WV dept. of environmental protection in watershed management. Currently she is an environmental educator at a children's museum. She loves working with kids, but is ready for a new adventure. Laura joined this GIS program to gain some technical skills to help her set out on a new path hopefully in environmental resource management. She is intested in native plants, wetlands, rivers, streams, creeks, cricks, and playing in the woods. Welcome to the Spotlight, Laura!

    What we like: I loved Laura’s post as she chose very current and relevant maps for her examples.  As she is right in the middle of this environmental disaster in West Virginia, she is privy to the maps created in effort to explain to the masses if their water is safe?  I agree with the twitter post in regard to the bad map! :)  Thanks for sharing Laura!

    MAP 1: Poorly Designed
    This poorly designed map was the first to be released by West Virginia American Water via twitter just hours after an announced water advisory following a chemical spill in the region. As concerned citizens searched for answers about the safety of their drinking water, they were confronted with this unclear, underlabeled, cluttered map with undefined symbols and extraneous lines. This falls well short of Tufte’s principles 2, 7, 8, 15 and 18 that call for clarity, thorough labeling and removing the junk. The author of this map did not follow British Cartographic Society’s 1st principle of cartographic design to consider the concept before compilation. This map appears quickly compiled with only the little thought it took to circle an area with red marker, leaving West Virginians to confusion and panic rather than answers.
    Side Note: I think Twitter user Istep hit the nail on the head with his response to this poorly designed map, "@KCCDHSEM just what we need an etch a sketch drawing."
    Map 2: Well Designed
    After American Water had a few days to figure things out, they produced a useful map tool to address the status of our drinking water. This well designed map has a clear purpose and shares information people are demanding to know, meeting map design Commandment 1 to Map Substantial Information. It has a simple layout, with minimal clutter as Commandment 4 states, accomplished by putting the text details on a separate tab, and including an address search tool to view additional details relevant to individual customers. It follows the British Cartographic Societies 5th principle of cartographic design by engaging the frantic emotions of West Virginia water users and offers reassurance as they check back and see their region move from unsafe red to safe* blue. Although, as the asterisk next to “safe” indicates this may just be scientists best guess, only time will tell if this map defies commandment 2: Don’t Lie with Maps

    Tune in next week on the same bat channel for our spotlight on internship!

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