The United States: Her Natural & Industrial Resources

View Live Map →

Why We Love It

This striking, retro-style US resources map draws inspiration from a similar map of Great Britain from the 1940s. Generalized land use data forms a brightly colored backdrop for point symbols representing mineral and energy sources. In a world of standardized mapping we love to see some mapmakers develop a different look and feel to their work.

Why It Works

Emotion is what drives great cartography. When a map made in 2014 reminds you of your grade school wall atlas, you know it has transcended the informational realm of most modern maps and entered the emotional realm. The shapes that form the background come from the USDA CropScape database, but look hand-drawn. The massive USGS Mineral Resources data is filtered to show a reasonable amount of points that are nicely distributed using Esri’s cartographic representation.

Important Steps

Reclassify the USDA CropScape raster layer using the categories in the legend. Resample to 15 km cells using majority rule. Convert the layer to polygons. Smooth the output using the Smooth Polygon tool.

Group USGS Mineral Resources data into high-level categories such as “precious metals” or “gemstones.” Use a definition query to filter map features and reduce density.

Utilize cartographic representations in ArcMap to develop vector symbols in the symbol editor. Use the Disperse Markers tool to distribute the symbols and reduce crowding.



Land cover data from the USDA will need to be cartographically processed from raster to create the smooth vector background.


The analysis on this map is all about filtering and generalizing the detailed data to a level that works for the small-scale map display. Limit the USGS minerals data to high-level categories to keep the map clear and reduce the number of symbols necessary.


This map took more than 100 hours to complete—including research, data collection, and design. Making the smoothed land use polygons was a long, manual process.

Limited Palette


Limit the number of colors used. Having a limited palette will motivate you to think more about how to style your data.

Legend Manually


Create the legend manually instead of using the legend wizard. Design your own layout and swatches to give it a personal touch.

Go Beyond Defaults


Go beyond defaults to make the map unique and styled beyond the software choices.

More Information

Map Author

Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith

@TheMapSmith | LinkedIn

I'm a self-styled GIS evangelist and cartographic connoisseur. I love working with the latest cartographic tools, using maps to send a message, and studying old styles to find inspiration.

Start making maps with a free trial of ArcGIS.

Try ArcGIS →