GEOG 486
Cartography and Visualization

Welcome to GEOG 486 - Cartography and Visualization


Quick Facts about GEOG 486

  • Instructor(s): This course is taught by a variety of instructors, including Marcela Suárez, Fritz Kessler, and Harrison Cole. Feel free to read about them and watch their introductory videos before class.
  • Course Structure: Online, 10-15 hours a week for 10 weeks
  • Prerequisites: GEOG 484 - GIS Database Development


Cartographic design projects emphasize effective visual thinking and visual communication with geographic information systems. This course covers cartographic design principles and thematic mapmaking techniques. Students will create static and dynamic maps using contemporary tools, including ArcGIS Pro, Mapbox Studio, and Tableau. Students will engage in the cartographic design process by selecting visual variables, classifying and generalizing data, applying principles of color and contrast, and choosing map projections based on map audience and purpose. Students will also be introduced to niche topics such as augmented and virtual reality, interactive geovisualization and geovisual analytics, and decision-making with maps and mapping products. GEOG 486 is one of several courses students may choose as their final course in the Certificate Program in Geographic Information Systems.

Learn more about GEOG 486, Cartography and Visualization (1 min 12 sec)

Click here for a transcript of the course introduction.

Hi, I'm Marcela Suarez. I'm one of the instructors of the Cartography and Visualization course. In this course you will learn how to create professional and aesthetically pleasing maps. Maps tell stories, whether they are related to an analysis or planning work, or to a personal project. These stories can be communicated in multiple ways. So how do you decide what map to make so that your stories are communicated in the most clear and effective way? You will learn that in this course. This is a lab-based course that covers design principles and techniques for creating maps. This includes selecting visual variables, classifying and generalizing data, and choosing map projections among other topics. But the bulk of this course will be spent getting hands-on experience creating different types of maps and critiquing maps as well. Many students comment that they were able to put what they learned to use right away at work and, or, in their research. They not only appreciate the variety of the assignments but also the opportunity to use different GIS software and tools. I invite you to take this course and take your cartographic skills to the next level.

Credit: © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Want to join us? Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback and earn academic credit. For more information, visit Penn State's Online Geospatial Education Program website. Official course descriptions and curricular details can be reviewed in the University Bulletin.

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