2019 Avenza Competition for Cartographic Design

Avenza Systems and the Cartography Specialty Group present a sponsored poster competition for the 2019 AAG meeting in Washington, DC. The purpose of the competition is to promote and recognize the effective application of design principles in the appearance and usability of map products and cartographic visualizations. Entries may be submitted as a paper poster or a URL and they will be judged in their native format. In addition, submissions should include a statement (250 words or less) describing the design goals. For display at the conference, submissions other than standard posters must be accompanied by a visual summary of the poster with links to the entry in its native format. Prize money will be $500, $300, and $200 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

When: Friday, April 5, 9:55am – 11:25am

Where: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level

Judges: Cynthia Brewer, Penn State University; Ted Florence, Avenza Systems: Debbie Gibbons, National Geographic; Lauren Tierney, The Washington Post

Organizer: Jeff Howarth, Middlebury College

Results: At the end of the competition, the four judges conferred and agreed upon the First, Second, and Third Place awards using the two criteria of design and usability. Honorable mentions placed in the top three of at least one judge. 

First Place: Levi Westerveld and Anne Kelly Knowles: “I Was There: Places of Experience in the Holocaust”

Second Place: Margot Dale Carpenter: “Surfing Saco Bay”

Third Place: Sarah Howard: “The Capes of Cod”

Honorable Mention:

James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti: “The Gulls Who Crave Crisps”

Daniel P. Huffman, “A New and Complete Map of the Inside Passage, Covering the Journey from Bellingham to Juneau, Including the Principal Islands, Settlements, Passages, &c”

Will Greene, “Downeast: a Map for Mainers”



Elizabeth Abramson, Macalester College: “Unsolicited: A Personal Cartography of Harassment in Boston Common & the Public Garden”

In this map, the pathways of Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden are overlaid with comments and questions I received while walking through or sitting in these public spaces during the summer of 2016. While maintaining the general form of walkways and the geographic boundaries of the Common and Public Garden, this project challenges traditional notions of what a map is for.

This map makes visible a series of interactions that would be imperceptible to the objective cartographic eye, but which perpetually frame my memories of that space. The map documents just one way that public spaces like the Common and Public Garden can quickly and invisibly become sites of hostility and othering.

Depicting these numerous entangled comments and questions as a cohesive whole makes clear that the words themselves and the assumptions behind them are evidence of larger systemic issues, rather than being a series of isolated incidents.

Andy Anderson, Amherst College, “The Colonization of New England”

This poster presents a map of 17th century English colonization of New England that integrates landscape, hydrography, settlement expansion, and historical events to display a fascinating tapestry of human migration. The illustration of these features simultaneously reveals their interconnectedness and helps explain the settlement patterns. The orientation of the map with west upward helps situate the viewer in the perspective of the settlers. Inset graphics provide additional information such as overall English population growth as well as period maps.

Margot Dale Carpenter, Hartdale Maps, “Surfing Saco Bay”

Surfing Saco Bay explores the connection between the surf breaks of this large embayment and the bathymetry that shape the waves and coastline. Valleys that were created when sea levels were lower are now part of an underwater topography that influences the wave direction and strength. As the waves approach the shore, the rocky headlines and sandy beaches further shape the waves.
Targeting both surfers and those who love the coast, this map describes the littoral zone using a combination of classic bathymetric shading, hints of isoline techniques seen in Siegfried’s 1877 map of Bernina Pass, and a splash of modern cartographic style.

Chelsea L. Cervantes de Blois, University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities, “Mapping Azerbaijan’s Regional Vulnerability: Analysis of pollutant and demographic data”

The design goals of these four bivariate maps is to narrate a story about which regions in Azerbaijan are at greatest health-risk to toxic sites from the former and post Soviet Union. Toxic severity levels at each site are displayed using circles of increasing sizes, with the largest size indicating the highest toxic severity level and the smallest circle indicating lowest toxic severity level. The different types of pollutants identified in Azerbaijan from 2012 -2018 are categorized by color. To show the correlation between the toxic sites of Azerbaijan and regional population variables, three determinants from the national census of the only available data at the local level are mapped: (1) people registered as unemployed per region from 2010 -2017; (2) population growth change per region from 2012-2018; (3) population average per region from 2012 -2018; and (4) infant mortality per region from 2012-2018. The purpose of the four maps is to visually show there is a need to encourage local, national, and international governments to use and apply Pure Earth’s Toxic Site Information Program’s (TSIP) data to create and implement policies relating to migration, pollutant management, and population health. The goal of this project’s design is to contribute to the discussions of vulnerability mapping and demographic data in respect to toxic sites.

James Cheshire, University College London and Oliver Uberti, “The Gulls Who Crave Crisps”

This map is taken from the book Where the Animals Go and has been chosen as an example that typifies a number of the design challenges we sought to overcome during the book’s creation. We were eager to showcase large and complex datasets collected by the growing number of animal tracking and tagging technologies. Such data typically took the form of GPS traces for individual animals collected over periods of days to years. This map charts the journeys of a colony of gulls nesting in the Netherlands. The data comprises millions of points across tens of gulls. In addition, we sought to include detailed base mapping information – such as terrain (one of the gulls crosses a mountain range) – as well as an inset showing the daily trips many of the gulls made to feed on the potato scraps created by a crisp (potato chip) factory. We chose to limit the complexity for readers by highlighting only a few gulls; created a custom stippled hill shade layer to indicate terrain without dominating the map; simplified and filtered some of the tracks; and developed a clear visual hierarchy for feature labelling. We hope that the result is a fun map that captures the richness of this very large dataset in an accessible way.

Dio Cramer, Macalester College, “What Doesn’t Kill Them Makes Them Stronger: Looking for Clusters of Superbugs in the United States”

With graphic design I hoped to draw people into this topic and engage with my poster. I believe antibiotic resistance is a very scary threat we are facing and I think more people should know about it. To make this topic more accessible I drew lots of little graphic icons to help explain my thought process, as well as some of the science and GIS tools behind the analysis that went into this project. As a visual thinker, this also helped me arrange the information in a way that makes sense so that it would be easy for someone else to understand my process.

Matthew Croy, Shippensburg University, “Pennsylvania Farmland Density Change 2007-2012”

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania has a farmland conservation program which supports farmers’ efforts to continue using high quality farmland for farming. This map applies the county’s conservation mentality to the entire state and is intended to provide decision-makers with a visual depiction of farmland change so they can make conservation-focused decisions. Red was a natural choice for farmland loss, implying alarm, and all other symbols were chosen to be as unobtrusive as possible to keep the focus on farmland. The map is also intended to support a future, expanded study where the reasons behind farmland loss are investigated, such as rezoning or reforesting. The expanded study would provide decision-makers a more complete picture of what is happening to farmland and why.

Emma Greenberg-Bell , Macalester College, “Diving into Divestment”

I created this visualization for my Advanced Cartography and Geovisualization class during the Fall 2018 semester. My intention for this visualization was to show the location of colleges and universities across the country that have divested from fossil fuels in comparison with the location of Macalester College. I also hoped to give some background information about the fossil fuel divestment campaign and student movement that is in progress at Macalester. Members of the Macalester administration and board of trustees often use the institution’s relatively small endowment to claim that divestment is not possible. This visualization was made with the intention of educating members of the Macalester community about the importance of divestment and the movements for divestment at universities and colleges with large and small endowments.

Will Greene, Middlebury College, “Downeast: a Map for Mainers”

The Maine Coast has long been a haven for fishermen, sailors, naturalists, and artists. To many, it feels like a water-ringed wilderness, yet it’s been a home to human culture for thousands of years as the homeland of the Wabanaki people. Its combination of rugged coast, hardy spruce forests, and turbulent waters is both sacred and magnetic to those who’ve called it home. This map seeks to capture the wonder and awe that I’ve felt toward this landscape having grown up on one of the many islands dotting the shoreline. It was conceived as a blend of historic nautical chart and modern landscape map – a clash of old and new, of ocean and coast. A naturalistic landcover-tinted hillshade renders a simplified yet detailed version of the land, while a shaded bathymetric relief with contour lines and digitally-generated depth soundings pays homage to and expands upon traditional nautical chart styling. The map is displayed at a slightly rotated orientation, with the vertical axis following the direction of glacial flow during the last ice age: a force that dramatically shaped the region’s topography. The base land tint emulates the pink granite that makes up much of the bedrock, emanating from the ancient volcanic roots of Mount Desert Island. Ultimately, though, the map comes together at the complex interface between land and sea that draws our small coastal communities together around a shared love for this beautiful and unique corner of the world.

Caylyn Hall, Shippensburg University, “The Bathymetry Of Lake Michigan”

The aim of this project is to take a breathtakingly, beautiful, digital map and convert it back to a paper medium. In a time before the digital world, bathymetry maps were often created using the paper cut method. The cartographer would analyze data collected about the topography of the sea or lake floor and painstakingly cut each layer of depth. This project is an attempt to recreate the depth of a paper cut map on a 2D plane. To be able to create perceived depth in the digital world is a challenge, but then to reproduce that depth on a singular piece of paper was my challenge. Any map enthusiast knows the beauty of paper cut bathymetry map. I was inspired by this beauty, and wanted to create something of my own. Highly inspired by John Nelson’s project Adventures in Mapping, this project is its own take on a cartographic masterpiece.

Sarah Howard, Middlebury College, “The Capes of Cod”

This map shows past and potential future coastal shifts on Cape Cod with a focus on understanding where people live versus what land is protected by the National Seashore. I’ve spent years visiting the National Seashore and worried about the seemingly continuous beach erosion along the coast. I was interested in thinking about how much the Cape has changed over the past couple hundred years and whether those shifts could continue to affect the cape in a similar manner in the future. That’s when I came to the question of where people live and whether we are actually protecting the most vulnerable land on Cape Cod.

Daniel P. Huffman, somethingaboutmaps, “A New and Complete Map of the Inside Passage, Covering the Journey from Bellingham to Juneau, Including the Principal Islands, Settlements, Passages, &c”

In June of 2018, I took a business trip to Alaska, and I made a point of sailing along the Inside Passage as part of my travel there. Since I knew I’d be on a boat for almost three days, I decided I should have a map with me so that I could look around and identify islands, mountains, etc. as we passed through. The map has a line approximating where I anticipated the boat to be at any given day/time.

I was inspired to give it a bit of a 19th century pastiche, as there’s a romanticism about traveling by sea in this day and age. I tried to keep things simple: there’s satellite-derived tree, urban, and snow cover, and some relief. Most of the work was in the extensive labeling, set in the ever-flexible Adobe Caslon. There’s a power in knowing the names of things, I think. There’s an intimacy that comes from hearing and mulling the sounds that we give a place, even if none of them have “true” names and it’s all arbitrary. The labels are the real point of the map, and it was a real challenge at times to thread them through each other. Very few of them are straight — I prefer the intentionality of curved lines.

Barry Kronenfeld, Agenda Nawa, Bolarinwa Oladipupo, Raju Thupran, and David Viertel, Eastern Illinois University, “Towards an Atlas of Gerrymandering”

The EIU GIScience Center is developing an online Atlas of Gerrymandering to graphically visualize measures of partisan symmetry and bias in the outcomes of recent U.S. congressional elections. While numerous websites exist that illustrate the concept of gerrymandering and even graphically demonstrate how election outcomes can be skewed in favor of the party in control of redistricting, most websites rely on artificial data for their graphical examples. Our objective is to visualize actual election data using cartographic design principles to graphically communicate the degree of partisan bias in any given state and election year. As a basis for visualization, we employ the efficiency gap, a measure of partisan bias that encapsulates the number of votes wasted by each party on election losses and lopsided wins. Using standard cartographic variables such as color hue, intensity and symbol size, we develop a standardized cartographic symbology to effectively communicate wasted votes in each district. This symbology is applied to cartograms featuring animated transitions, in which each congressional district is normalized to the same areal extent, so that the overall visual impact elicits a sense of the statewide efficiency gap. This standardized method is applied to data from the 2018 congressional election in several large states. Eventually, we hope to extend the visualization framework to all states with more than 5 congressional districts using data from the past several decades, creating a comprehensive atlas of gerrymandering in the United States.

Lea LeGardeur, Middlebury College, “Seafloor Map of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument”

Unlike many national monuments on land, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is not a place that can easily be visited or shown in photographs. Because the monument’s most important and most interesting features lie deep below the ocean surface, the most accessible depictions of it are maps and diagrams. However, existing maps of the monument are fairly limited. Most maps of the area merely show the boundaries of the two monument units over an expanse of flat blue ocean. The few that do include seafloor relief, like the official map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are mostly small-scale maps, with coarse resolution, fuzzy relief, or little depth information. A more detailed and clearer to read map would be useful and of interest to the general public, who otherwise have no means of interacting with the monument.
The aim of this map is to fill that void and to eventually be part of a poster that would serve as an informational guide to area. The inspiration for the project came from a cartography course taught by Professor Jeff Howarth at Middlebury College in spring 2018 and from Tom Patterson’s “Seafloor Map of Hawai’i”. The main challenge of making this map was to apply terrain depiction techniques used for mountainous regions on land to this high relief area of seafloor. Specific problems that I encountered were related to data quality and availability and to coloring the terrain in a way that would make it intuitive to read.

Alex Manikas, Shippensburg University, “Video Game Developers of the World 2018”

The objective of my map is to present the net worth and geographic distribution of AAA video game developers across the globe. Video games have been around for several decades and have become an extremely lucrative industry. To illustrate these fortunes, I chose to create a proportional symbols map based on the net worth of the top ten richest video game developing studios. Each map displays a geographic region in which the studio is located with their respective company logo. I chose a color scheme that mimicked a “Retro orientated” design, similar to an arcade-style environment. The neon coloration allows the viewer to distinguish which part of the world they are viewing in respect to the globe. My affective purpose is to promote the success of the video games and pay homage to my favorite leisure activity.

Henry McCarthy, Macalester College, “Discover Toson Hulstai”

In Fall 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Mongolia. While living in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, I worked as an intern for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). During my internship, I was tasked with creating a brochure for TNC Mongolia’s anchor site, Toson Hulstai Nature Reserve. The goal of this project was to create a map of the reserve in the style of the United States National Parks Service (NPS). Beyond the signature NPS bar (I used dark green repeated throughout the map rather than black for the bar), Helvetica title, and hillshade basemap, I made an effort to maintain consistent design standards across the map. I relied primarily on tan and sandy tones to complement the TNC illustration faded into the bottom of the map as well as the dark green structural elements and black text throughout. To distinguish points of interest, I created various symbols to match the respective attractions at each location.

The Nature Conservancy’s Mongolia Program is heavily involved with tracking mining sites across the country and promoting biodiversity offset. Due to the significant, negative environmental impacts of mining throughout Mongolia, I thought it relevant to include licensed mining areas on this map to highlight the importance of reserves such as this one.

Dustin McCorkle, Shippensburg University, “Invasive Species: Gypsy Moth 1900-2320”

The goal of my map is to show the Gypsy Moth’s (Lymantria dispar dispar) invasive path per county which started in the New England states. I also wanted to show the predicted path per county to make the map more interesting and show the seriousness of the invasion. I thought it was important to show the destruction caused by forest defoliation in the counties that the Gypsy Moth currently occupies. For those that do not live in a region where the Gypsy Moth is present, I have included a short description about how the spread of this invasive species began, as well as images of both a male and female moth. Lastly, the colors I chose to use in my map are all colors found on a male Gypsy Moth.

Timothy Prestby, University of Wisconsin Madison, “Bicycles in America: A ‘Cyclone’ of Safety Takes America By Storm”

I am mapping the growing movement of biking in the United States by highlighting the top 50 cities for biking in the USA. The map should be a one stop infographic for those interested in moving to a city with more biking. The map type is a modified chernoff map. The chernoff style is utilized because it provides a more interesting and eye-catching visual that map users can relate to. Above all, the title splashes the page with color and draws the map user in. The entire map is designed with minimal colors to ensure those with color vision deficiency can enjoy the map. To simplify the results and ensure that map users can distinguish patterns, only three variables are manipulated. The green wheels represent growth and funding for the future plans. The biking helmet and blazer are orange to symbolize the awareness that comes with the color orange related to fatalities. Lastly, the composition of a line represent the infrastructure of the bike lanes. The base map and supplementary text recede to the ground using a low-valued gray as these elements are the least important in the map frame. A fluid layout utilizing white space as containers and boundaries ensures unnecessary attention does not fall to elements like container frames. Callouts to various places are added to extend the meaning of the chernoff symbols.

Emmanuel Uko, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, “East Atlantic flyway: wings over coastal Nigeria”

The East Atlantic flyway is a major flyway or route in which migratory birds traverse from Europe to Africa, flying through and stopping over coastal cities across Nigeria and West Africa during wintering seasons and returning back when the weather is favorable for them.

Jacob Wacker, Shippensburg University, “The Economic Benefits of Wilderness”

The purpose of my map is to display the economic benefits that national parks bring to the United States economy. While the main map only displays the sixty-one national parks, the data for the choropleth maps and the graph along the bottom encompasses all the attendance, jobs created, and GPD produced for all the national parks and sites; this was done for the sake of creating an uncluttered map with all 419 features. I chose to represent the economic boundary of sixty miles with a fading buffer in order to represent distance from the park as economic activity likely decreases with distance.

Regarding the color scheme of the map, the use of green makes good use when describing a topic such as national parks because when the reader thinks of a national park, it is likely that they think of natural features.

My hope for the map reader is that they come to the conclusion that our national parks and sites are much more than just preserved land, but regions that bring economic benefits while promoting appreciation for our country’s natural history and landscapes.

Shane C. Walsh, Jody R. Manning and Zachary Christman, Rowan University, “Chronicling Post-War Development of Dachau, Germany”

Landscapes, both urban or rural, serve as a memory of the past and a framework for future development. Places that have experienced a traumatic event may struggle to balance the dichotomy of reflection or painful memories and the possibilities of an optimistic future. The use of multitemporal map products has enabled Planners, Historians and Geographers to concurrently investigate spatial and temporal relationships in these memory-laden landscapes. In the case of the former Dachau Concentration Camp (KL) and SS-Training Grounds, in Dachau, Germany, the landscape around the former camp has undergone a transition to a more suburban, “progressive” community, with a tension between ambitious development and maintaining the solemn memory of this place. This map project present an object-based approach to illustrate postwar development with reference to historical aerial photography time series to create a versatile suite of map products that may chronicle the dual nature of this landscape.

Hannah Weber, Shippensburg University, “U.S. Natural Disasters Recording Death Tolls Since 1990”

The goal of my map is to show the increasing relationship of natural disasters as our climate gets warmer. The proportional symbol map represents the type of natural disaster whether it was a flood, fire, tornado, or hurricane, as well as the death toll resulting from that disaster. The death toll is shown by the size of the proportional symbol compared to the other disasters. As well as the proportional symbol map, there are also two line graphs to reinforce the relationship presented. One graph shows the increasing death tolls resulting from natural disasters. The other graph showing increasing temperatures of the United States largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Levi Westerveld, GRID-Arendal and Anne Kelly Knowles, University of Maine, “I Was There: Places of Experience in the Holocaust”

How can one spatially situate and visualize the personal experiences of Holocaust victims?

Jacob Brodman and Anna Patipa were Holocaust survivors whose testimonies provide rich and unique windows onto the kinds of places and movements that shaped the experiences of the Nazis’ victims.

I Was There: Places of Experience in the Holocaust is a map which depict their experiences in space and time. It is built on a hybrid approach that combines topographical and topological mapping. The largest places with known geographic location were first placed in a Cartesian space. All other places mentioned in the testimonies of Patipa and Brodman were then placed according to their topological relationships to the places with known coordinates. This approach allowed us to show every place mentioned, even ummappable locations such as “somewhere in a forest,” or in a room or a moving train car.

Circles representing places were scaled relative to one another to maintain topological consistency. This allowed us to highlight the places that were most significant to the survivors. The degree of opacity indicates how frequently a place was mentioned in the interview. The circles marking each place were drawn by hand to give them a personal quality. Faint arrows help trace the individuals’ movements, connecting the dated sequence of places each person mentions. Brief quotations embed the voice of each survivor in the map, and help reconstruct their memories of events in distinct spaces.