Cartographer Cynthia A. Brewer’s new edition of Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users, published by Esri, guides mapmakers through the process of designing visually pleasing and easy-to-understand maps.
“This book helps you develop the graphic skills you need for mapmaking,” said Brewer, a professor and head of the geography department at Pennsylvania State University.
In writing the book, Brewer drew on 30 years of experience teaching and working in map design. The book focuses on cartography basics, including layout design; working with basemaps, legends, scales, and projections; labeling maps; selecting colors and type; and customizing symbols. In this second edition, Brewer has added a chapter on publishing and sharing maps and devotes a section to her ColorBrewer application, an online color selection tool that any mapmaker can use. ColorBrewer is now part of the new Esri ArcGIS Proapplication.
The large selection of color maps in the book are highly instructional, with examples of poor or mediocre maps being compared to well-designed maps. For example, there are two maps of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, located in the United States and Canada. One map is what Brewer calls “excessively decorated,” with a huge scale bar, illegible typeface, and other elements that distract from the map. The second map, meant to showcase vegetation types, is simple and designed to make the most important information stand out.
Brewer has been a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University for 21 years, teaching introductory cartography and other map design courses. She has written four books, including Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users, which complemented her 2005 edition of Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users.
Brewer also is an affiliate faculty member at the US Geological Survey (USGS) Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS). She has done consulting work with the National Park Service, the US Census Bureau, the National Cancer Institute, the National Center for Health Statistics, and Esri. She won the Henry Gannett Award for Exceptional Contributions to Topographic Mapping from the USGS in 2013.
Watch a video about the book.