GEOG 486
Cartography and Visualization



A. What is the Capstone Project?

The Capstone Project for this course challenges you to create a thematic map project that communicates two or more variables on a topic of your choice. Then working with peers, create critiques that, in turn, you use to revise your map project.

B. Objectives

By the completion of this project, you should be able to:

  • Acquire GIS data and create a map that visually communicates two or more variables related to a subject.
  • Employ cartographic theory to select visual representations and symbols that fit the logic of the data being mapped.
  • Design a layout using visual hierarchy, balance, and figure-ground of text and graphics to quickly communicate the subject and purpose of the map.
  • Interpret, evaluate and critique maps in writing with the goal of increasing discourse, understanding and appreciation of map design.

C. Guidelines

  • To be multivariate, your map(s) must show two or more data variables.

For the context of this project, your data variables (in order to be considered as variables) should show at least one attribute that varies within the map. For example, I will not consider roads, streams or point locations of cities or buildings to be variables, unless they show varying attributes that are relevant to the thematic topic of the map. If the city symbols were sized according to population and relevant to the purpose of the map, they would qualify as a data variable. Otherwise I will just consider them a data layer or features on the map that are for reference. A map would also qualify as multivariate if you showed just one data layer with more than one varying attribute. For example, a map of census tracts that shows two attributes would be multivariate, e.g. income and cancer mortality. Depending on how you symbolize the census tracts, this would not only be a multivariate map, but a map using multivariate symbols.

  • The topic you choose is completely up to you. It is likely that the biggest limitation to picking your topic will be availability of data. After picking a broad topic, I recommend that you look into what data is available before you pinpoint exactly what you will map.
  • The concepts of multivariate representation, data uncertainty and integration of maps and info graphics, presented in the Lesson 8 Concept Gallery may contain information that will be helpful while you are planning your capstone project. (Other concepts from other lessons will also be useful, e.g. symbolization from lesson 2, multivariate symbols from lesson 5, different map representations from lesson 4 and 5, etc.).
  • You can certainly incorporate GIS analysis into your project, but remember this is a cartographic project, not a GIS analysis project. I will grade the map design and ability of the map to communicate your specific topic, not what you did to get the data.

D. Project Examples from past students:

  • Redevelopment of Philadelphia's Fishtown. This map shows a straightforward example of mapping two different variables related to urban redevelopment. One is at the scale of the parcel (in Philadelphia), and the other is at the scale of the census tract. Useful reference features and labeling are included.
  • Female Operated Farms in the U.S. uses a bivariate map with two different representations layered one on top of the other, and also a bivariate dot density.
  • Quality of Life in Africa uses a bivariate choropleth map of GDP and life expectancy; and also maps the Human Development Index and adult literacy on supporting univariate choropleth maps.
  • Springsnails as Indicators of Spring Health shows custom multivariate symbols representing a number of factors that indicate the health of springs in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Pedestrian Fatalities shows an example of layout with more than one data representation and a couple color schemes.

None of these projects are perfect. They all have things that could be improved, but in general they are successful examples of illustrating a subject with more than one variable, and in different ways. If you have questions or comments about any of these project examples, would like more examples, or would like further feedback from me about these examples, please post in the Capstone Project discussion forum.

As you work through the course you will complete a few milestones related to the capstone project (see Checklist below for details).

E. Capstone Project Checklist

Below are the milestones required to complete the capstone project. See course Calendar in Canvas for exact due dates. See the pages linked below for more details.

Step Activity Access/Directions Due Date
1 Project proposal Write a proposal for the course capstone project. See Writing the Project Proposal for directions. At the end of Week 6
2 Submit two peer reviews of proposals See Writing the Project Proposal for directions. Sunday after proposals were turned in (middle of Week 7)
3 Screen capture of data See Submitting the Screen Capture of Data for details. At the end of Week 8
4 Submit complete draft of map for peer review Complete a draft of your map. See Submitting a Draft for the Class for more details. At the end of Week 9
5 Submit two peer reviews of draft projects See Submitting a Draft for the Class for more details. Friday after drafts were turned in (middle of Week 10)
6 Submit final revised project and write-up Make improvements to your map project based on feedback from Week 9. See Submitting the Final Draft for more details. At the end of Week 10