Today’s Agenda…

  • General Tech. Discussion
  • Homework Discussion – Definitions
  • Helpful Maps/Videos
  • Google My Maps
  • Homework Assignment (at the very bottom of the page!)

Where do we begin?

Before starting the mapping process, we must sit down to think about our purpose and goals. Why are you making a map in the first place? Who is your audience? Who is going to gather the data? How will you gather the data? What kind of data do you have? How are you going to display the data? Thinking about these questions beforehand will help you in the long run. You want to make sure that you are starting off with the right mapping tools, data, and process appropriate for achieving your end goals.

First, lets review a few visual design principles that will help with the presentation aspect of your map. Because lets face it, everyone can make a map but if its not visually pleasing or it is difficult to understand, no one will want to deal with it. Just remember that in this information overload world, you probably have less than 3 seconds to persuade a person to stay tuned for your message. If in those three seconds they can’t figure out how to navigate your map, you will have lost them.

Just remember all of those times you saw an online infographic and you moved right past it because you did not know where to start…



Design Tips

Title and Descriptions

The title of your map is very important! Usually it is the first thing the audience will see that gives a brief  introduction to what your map is attempting to show. Here are a few tips to create a great one:

  • Keep it simple: think descriptive and purposeful
    • ” Minimum Wage Needed to Rent Apartment in any State”
    • ” Cyber Attack Occurrences by Country”
    • “Which States Rely the Most on Federal Aid”
  • Easily identifiable on map
    • Try to make it the first thing your audience looks at. Most often, your audience is expecting it the first line at the top or bottom. Just make it noticeable before one gets to analyze the map closely.
  • Match it to your theme and audience
    • Use your best judgement as to how you will title or describe your map. Is your audience adults, children, youth?
  • Choose colors, fonts, and text content wisely
    • Don’t get too crazy if you are not accustomed to adding multiple colors and fonts. Stay consistent and stick to a color and font scheme. You do not want your audience to be distracted, misled, or annoyed. Think about all of the times you saw an infographic that had an annoying appearance or was loaded with “too much” that you decided to move on instead. Don’t let this happen! Maps should be simple and straight to the point.



The legend defines the symbols and/or colors (including shades of gray and patterns) used on the map. Not all symbols will need defining. Sometimes you will not need or choose to have a legend. If in question, always think about your audience and how much content you have plastered on.

If there is a lot of information on your map that you MUST include, the more important legend becomes as a way to help guide your viewers. The map below displays a few levels of information, colors, shapes, names, etc; see how they used their legend to help and guide their audience



Cartography:  the science or practice of drawing maps.

Learning how to draw maps or communicating spatial information


Geo- “of or relating to the earth.”

Graphy- a descriptive science.

How societies are spread across the earth

Map: Most simply, maps represent an area spatially and through non-spatial features. They are not only limited to displaying roads, streets, and features of locations but they may also display political boundaries, population, physical features, natural resources, economic resources, and much more! Whereas once they were mostly represented a on 2-d flat surface, now with countless of digital mapping tools available, you can view certain maps in 3-d.

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool that integrates multitude of databases allowing you the power to easily modify and analyze data in order to make informed decisions. Think about it as your an powerful organizing tool.

Don’t get to bogged down in the definition of GIS. Think of it as a realm of science concerned with encoding data (drinking fountains, borders, traffic signals, chupacabra sightings) with spatial coordinates so that we can build rich, interactive, and infinitely configurable maps.

Geocoding: The process of converting a place/address/or   other form of location reference and description to its corresponding latitude and longitudinal coordinates.

Types of Maps

There are many types of maps in existence such as topographic, political, physical, climate, and economic and resource allocation maps. Sometimes, maps may combine  some of their features on a map but nonetheless, each map is focused on showcasing one of these themes. Two types of maps that are central to our course are described below:

Reference Maps:

Reference maps give you the nitty-gritty about a place. They are designed to show only geographic features such as rivers and boundaries such as county district lines. Also may include information such as the names of roads or towns. Ever heard the term “political map”? That’s a map that’s just the political boundaries of a place. Like below is a political map of Africa:


Thematic maps are focused on showing data based on a theme. They are designed to tell a story using demographic, economic, business, or socioeconomic data. Most often they are the result of data that has been analyzed and thus, provide the end result. These maps may use features from reference-like maps  to support the data but the focus remains on the theme. Consider the map below:

This map shows the same place as the map above, but it is telling you something much deeper than just what the names and boundaries of nation states are.

Scale Indicator
The scale of the map is typically indicated by a graphic bar scale, a representative fraction or a verbal scale. The reader must be able to determine the relationship between a unit of measure on the map and a unit of measure in the real world.

Layers are data types that can be easily manipulated or organized on the basemap. Each data source/type acts as a single and separate unit.

  • Education level, Income, Age, etc.
  • Roads, parcels, streets, etc. (as seen in the GIS example)

A marker identifies a location on a map. By default, a marker mapsuses a standard image. Markers can display custom images, in which case they are usually referred to as “icons.”

Background information that allows the viewer to know where they are. MapBox offers a range of readily available options before starting off your map:


Example Maps and Videos

Using Google My Maps

  • Sign into Google My Maps with your google or UCSC account.
    • Create a new map
  • Layers
    • These can be used as the “Categories” of your map
      • By checking or unchecking your layer you place or remove that “Category” visually from the map
    • Within these layers will be your markers and polygons
      • Markers – will be placed at locations as points to represent what your Layer or Category is attempting to represent
      • Lines – are 2 markers that connect to each other as a straight line.
      • Polygons – are shapes you can create to represent larger areas of a map
        • These are based on multiple markers that connect with to each other with lines and fill in the area created by the three or more marker

The other parts of Google My Maps are straight forward.


The homework for this week will be creating your own Google My Maps. This map should be an example of your creativity and in doing so you will have control over what you would like your map to show (Start thinking about projects!). There will be some criteria that you need to meet in your map.

  • Change the basemap
  • 3 Layers
    • Each layer should be a different “Category” for ex. high schools, colleges, tech companies, or beaches
      • This should stick to the overall theme of your map
        • Beaches and schools don’t go together! Unless you’re creative enough to make it work for your map
        • You need to be able to explain this
    • 15 Markers, 5 within each layer
      • These Markers should be of the same color and shape
      • Markers should represent what the layer represents
    • 3 Polygons, 1 per layer
      • Polygon representing an area of that layer
  • A 5 point set of directions on your map

That’s it! After this you’ll take a screenshot or 3 if you need to of everything that you’ve done and submit it to me before class. I need to be able to see all of the criteria above clearly.