Assignment 1: Cartography

ESM 263 (Frew), Winter 2017

Due at 8:00 am on Tuesday, 24 January 2017


  1. Learn basic principles of cartography and map design.
  2. Do the tutorial exercises to learn the basics of ArcMap.
  3. Design and construct a map using provided data.
  4. Submit your assignment to course website.


This assignment is worth 5 points (10% of your grade), awarded according to the scoring rubric. Your map should adhere to design principles, contain all appropriate design elements, and present data accurately.

Task 1: Principles of cartography and map design

Creating maps is one of the most common applications of GIS. A well-designed map is a powerful communication tool, but it takes practice and experience to master. You do not need any spatial analysis techniques for this assignment, but you do need to understand the core concepts and design principles behind mapmaking (i.e., cartography). We will discuss these principles in lecture and lab, and we've posted some readings on the course website. Read the article from O'Looney, and focus on key principles—such as map layers, map elements, visual variables, symbology, and commonly used map types such as choropleth and cartograms.

Task 2: Tutorials

You will learn the basics of ArcMap to navigate and create maps via hands-on tutorials in the Law & Collins book. Note that the tutorial files are in H:\GTKArcGIS (a shortcut you should have created; see ArcGIS setup, part 1) on our lab computers, and they are shared, read-only files. Work through the exercises in these Law & Collins chapters:

Task 3: Design a map

You will design a map of the world that shows demographic information for each country, and will use the ArcMap skills you learned in the tutorials.
  1. Setup: Download the data file HW1.7z from the course website. Extract HW1.7z file into your H:\ESM263 folder. You should have the following structure now:
  2. Create a new ArcMap document: H:\ESM263\HW1\HW1.mxd (see ArcGIS Setup Part 2). Open the new map document.
  3. Add CountryWatch.lyr to your map using File → Add Data....
  4. Read CountryWatch.htm. This is the metadata for the CountryWatch data—skim the section titled How does the data set describe geographic features?
  5. Choose a variable to use for your map from the variables documented in the metadata. Examples include energy consumption ENGCONPC97, population density POPDENS00 or greenhouse gas emissions GGAS_EMS98. You may choose any variable (except for Electricity Consumption!) Use the Attribute Table of the Countries layer to view the data in tabular form.

    Here is an example map with Title, Legend, and Acknowledgement elements.

  6. Design a map for your data while considering these questions:
  7. Layout your map to include Title, Legend, and Acknowledgement elements. Remember to include your name and your data sources. For your page layout, use letter paper in landscape mode (11" × 8.5").
  8. Export your map as a PNG image by using the File → Export map... menu item and selecting PNG as the file type and HW1.png as the file name. Use the Options to set your image resolution to 300 dpi (dots per inch) in the General tab, and use an 8-bit color palette in the Format tab.
  9. Verify that your PNG file is no larger than 3300 × 2550 pixels (i.e., 11" × 8.5" @ 300 dpi) and no larger than 10MB in size. Your map should be clear and readable.

Task 4: Turn-in your assignment

  1. Rename your map image file to include your full name with proper capitalization and no spaces or punctuation—e.g., from HW1.png to HW1JamesFrew.png.
  2. Create a submission by uploading your map image file to the assignment page on the course website.

Things to look out for

Design and layout

Data sources and accuracy


back to ESM 263 home