cartographic design

*My work is currently limited to course work, research & technical lab exercises.

MOBILE SITE: For full image description, including visualization/creation process, please visit www.GISwienton.com on your laptop or computer.


for Transportation of Hazardous Waste

Least-Cost Path Analysis

Software: ArcGIS Pro

About: This map is the result from an Advanced GIS lab assignment meant to explore different ways to spatially calculate least-cost distance and least-cost paths as it relates to railroads and population density impacting the transport of hazardous waste materials across the United States. 

Process: Beyond the analysis conducted, the base map and color choice for this map were what I wanted to focus on to give it a professional but modern feel. With a slightly edited ESRI basemap (increased transparency), a graduate blue color scheme contrasts the yellow and coral symbology of the storage sites and best path chosen. The legend stands out subtly with a base color matching the lightest shade on the graduated blue color ramp, also matching the scale bar. The color for the title, subtitle and info textbox are shades of the same hues used for the storage site and best path symbology. A challenge was where and how to place/color the subtext along the bottom, where I ultimately chose to color and place them rather quietly along the bottom to blend in but still remain visually present and aesthetically pleasing. 


Software: ArcGIS Pro

About: I created this rather basic map to show my undergraduate Maps and Mapmaking students the different things you can do in ArcGIS Pro when it comes to designing aesthetically pleasing maps. In the lab I run, the students are learning both ArcGIS Pro and Adobe Illustrator to create and design maps. While Adobe Illustrator of course has many design capabilities, I wanted to show my students that you can still design nice looking maps within the limits of ArcGIS Pro software. Specifically, the editing and customizing of the legend, fonts, scale bar, floating text, and uploading of png or jpg images are among the things emphasized in this example. 

of Design Capabilities in ArcGIS Pro

Example Map

ArcMap of Results.png

of Female Breast Cancer in New York

Spatial Cluster Analysis

Software: SaTScan, Google Earth and ArcGIS Pro

About: This is a map made for an Advanced Quantitative Methods assignment meant to explore spatial clustering statistics 

Process: SaTScan was used to identify statistically significant geographic patterns, specifically to determine if and 
where there are any areas (clusters) of more breast cancer incidence assuming risk was evenly distributed across the state of New York in the year 2009. While there are other methods to conducting spatial analysis, such as k-means clustering 
that clusters objects by minimizing within-cluster sum of squares (variances), or basic spatial association investigations using ArcGIS Pro and other software, the SaTScan analysis conducted in this report provides a much stronger statistical analysis of clusters comparatively. The analysis of the spatial scan statistic using this SaTScan software works better to detect geographic concentrations of event occurrences that are statistically significant, compared to/rather than spatial association exploration alone. While I used Google Earth to initially explore the clusters, I exported shp files from SaTScan to curate a better display in ArcGIS Pro.


Research Poster

of Published Research

Software: Microsoft PowerPoint

About: This is the second associated poster to my undergraduate research on Texas tornado outbreaks with updated findings just prior to publication with the Professional Geographer. 

Process: I saw this poster as an opportunity to refine and improve my design and graphic communication style from the original poster I created for this research project (see the original poster below). With the updated findings, I had to incorporate multiple maps with various legends and themes to display, working to balance concise communication with very detailed spatial information. As any cartographer knows, smart generalization is always the challenge/goal! Making the maps dominantly front and center draws the reader in to focus on the overarching spatial patterns that the surround text describes. 

Infographic 2.png

Geography Section

of Sterling C. Evan's Library

Software: Microsoft Powerpoint

About: This is a visualization I was inspired to create in October 2018 after a visit to the geography section of the main library on campus. While walking through the shelves, I noticed that I stood sandwiched between GIS books on my right and early geographic expedition reports on my left. How could two topics be so close together physically/geographically on the shelves, but so vastly contrasting in topic? On the other hand, the two topics go hand in hand: the origins of the field started with those who were inspired to explore terra incognita, thereby initiating the history of geography and hand-drawn cartography, which enabled today’s modern technology and digital cartography.


This questioning is what inspired me create this visualization of the distribution of all of the subgenres of this geography section. (It should be noted that the major subgenres such as physical geography or human geography have their own respective sections outside of this general geography section.) Check out some extra info on how this project came to be here.

Process: Made solely in PowerPoint, I started this infographic with the inset map of the floorplan of the 5th floor, which I got from the library's website (and then altered the color a bit).  To draw the eye to the central map, I utilized two circles, one smaller (circling the geography section in the inset map) and one bigger one to frame the main focus, connected by thin lines. Something I struggled with next was how to visualize the book shelving using only lines; I needed to represent each side of the 5 shelves (making 10 in total), and denote the location of each genre on the shelves. To do this, I used shape (rectangles) and color elements. 

Legend: To categorize the book genres, I felt that any more than 10 would cause the audience to spend too much time reading text and rather than the map. This keeps the visual design efficient. I chose these genres myself by walking through the shelves and typing down generalized groupings of books I was seeing; there were no labels or other maps used to do this.

Color Theme: To differentiate each genre, I utilized color theory to further convey similarities and contrasts between genres. For example, the genres of Technological Spatial Science and History of Geography were assigned colors opposite of each other on the color wheel (complementary colors), to show the stark difference between genres. Genres that are similar, like References and Atlases, are slightly different colors of a singular hue (monochromatic colors).

Map Elements:  To contrast the roundness of the map, I created square legend key symbols and chose a san-serif font to emphasize the circular theme. I reorganized the order of the book genres in the legend by color to be an aesthetic downward flow of color. (I considered putting the colors in ROYGBV order, but prefered the cool/hot temperature contrast). I experimented with a pie chart to fill white space, but ended up with a more modern twist to the same concept. I did not include the text numbers on this chart to keep the minimalist feel

Considerations: If I were to do anything different in the creation process, I might experiment with putting a shape behind the legend or caption text, possibly a light grey box, to visually separate the text elements and create more contrast with sharp corners (squares) and circles. I played around with wrapping the text around the central circle, just like I did with the paragraphs on my research poster, but ultimately thought that that might be too much and wanted too keep it simple.

Morbidity & Mortality of

Texas Tornado Outbreaks

Software: Microsoft Powerpoint, ArcGIS for map

About: This is a poster designed for the research I completed over the summer of 2017; more information can be found about this research here. The poster helps visually explain the significant relationship between tornado severity and outbreaks. In order to communicate the spatial component of my findings, I created a map showing the distribution of tornado related deaths and injuries across a heat map of tornado severity.

Process: This poster was made completely within Microsoft PowerPoint, excluding the map that I created using ArcPro. Deviating from an ordinary research poster design, I decided to go with a circular theme, leaving a softer and more visually appealing impression. This intrinsically welcoming design invites the audience to follow the natural flow of the poster, enhanced by the subtle gray arrows throughout. The words curve to the shape of the circles, enhancing the artistic flare that the contrasting font and color choices introduce. PowerPoint makes it very easy to curve words around the pie charts, as well as to overlay the tables and legend atop circles. A more detailed look at these design decisions can be found at the bottom of this page.


Additionally, I chose to make a very simple and straightforward map that people could understand right off the bat: concentric circles (showing a ranging amount of deaths and injuries) overlaying a heat map of severity. The color choices of this map compliment the overall color scheme of the poster.


One of the problems I ran into was how to emphasize certain numbers I needed to denote as more significant than others in the P-Value table. I originally had black and white numbers, rather than the light purple and dark gray they are now, but these highly contrasting colors made it hard to tell which numbers were classified as significant. By coloring the "Significant at p < 0.05" the same shade of dark gray of the significant values in the table, I further enforced the correlation that gray = significant.

Another problem I had run into was how to establish a natural flow to the poster. I did this through coloring the heading of each section a color that was consecutively darker than the previous color, in an ombré color scheme that coordinated with the overall warm theme. I also added the subtle gray arrows to ensure this flow, though if I were to make this poster again, I probably wouldn't include them as they just take up white space.

Sporks Frozen Yogurt

Software: ArcGIS 

About: This is a Site Suitability Map that was a class assignment for a Principles of GIS course in the spring of 2017. The data was provided by our instructor, who had us locate the best place for a new frozen yogurt shop in College Station.

Process: Created with ArcMap, I kept a consistent color scheme of the same three colors, but varied the hues and percent transparency to create a hierarchy of importance throughout the map. In doing so, I created three primary layers within the map:

1.) the base map, a coupling of a satellite image of the town overlapped with a structural layer set at 70% transparency

2.) the three "Site Selection" circles, set at 20% transparency, so to stand out brighter and increase their visual importance

3.) the inset map, set at 0% transparency to increase it's visual weight, highlighting its importance as a map element

A problem I ran into was how to emphasize the three sites I had selected. To do this, I created three new data layers or inset maps, added a copy the original data three times, and shaped each copied data layer on the map into a circle. After altering the transparencies, I overlaid each one to align perfectly with their respective area of the basemap. To further emphasize the site selections, I added the text and the black border around the circles. The circle shape of these site selections ties together with the inset map, creating a harmonious design with repetition of similar shapes. 

The inset map is 0% transparent to represent importance, but more importantly distinguish it from the other selection circles. I went in and added my own text on this inset map, as the scale of it made the original text difficult to see. However, I only added text for the main roads and main location of the map, for simple sophistication. 

The font choice was chosen as a sans serif font, as to remain consistent and further convey the round/circular theme of the map. Dark grays were utilized rather than plain black to give the map a more pastel, calm feel. The legend background color was chosen to be more subdue on top of the base map, but still maintain important. 

If I were to do anything different next time, I would probably do some trial-and-error with new basemaps. Although the transparent overlay provides the map reader with a good sense of the area, it gives the map a dull, washed-over feeling. Possibly even a simple color scheme change could fix this.

TPH Distribution & Concentration


Software: ArcGIS

About: These similar maps were two separate assignments for a Principles of GIS course. The data was again provided by our instructor, who had us map the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, where he often conducts research. The map on the left, which I will refer to as Map A for simplicity, was created first, mapping the spatial distribution of TPH where as the other map, Map B, communicates the TPH concentration ranges more specifically.

Process: Using ArcMap, I experimented with shadows behind the maps for these projects, as well as placement of legend and color choices. Map B communicates the data more efficiently and aesthetically, with a stronger contrast between light and dark, creating a clear foreground and background separation through the use of color. The san serif font choice for this map also compliments the concentric circles much better than the font choice on Map A.

A problem I ran into on Map B was how to depict the three types of values I had: Values > 25m, Values within 25m before 1995, and Values within 25m after 1995. I chose to separate each of these by color, and gave the values within 25m rings around groupings of values for their respective year.

Given the chance to essentially recreate the Map A, I chose to a very different color scheme than Map B, as the light blue and light purple were difficult to see on such a light basemap. I also changed the over feel of the map, giving it a more modern feel.

Northwestern United States

Software: ArcGIS, Inkscape 

About: This map was a class assignment for a Cartography & Visualization course. We were given a blank outline of the Northwestern US and a list of cities, capitals, counties, states, countries, landscape features, and bodies of water. Our job was to label the locations correctly, and complete the map.

Process: The vision I had in mind for this map was to mimic what I have always seen in textbooks or other common maps, sticking to the classic colors and serif fonts. Using ArcMap, the first thing I did was add the basic colors to the map: tan for land and blue for water.


After researching and placing the correct labels, a challenge I came across was how to distinguish between cities, capital and states. To solve this, I decided to utilize text characteristics such as size, color, symbols, placement and shape to create separation and an obvious visual order. This decision process made me appreciate all the many 'small' decisions cartographers have to make when labeling all the parts of the map that seem so ordinary. I chose to make the counties a light shade of tan/gray, distinguished from the cities and capital that are a darker brown, in italics, and a smaller sized font. To distinguish between cities and capitals, I chose to give all of them a circle symbol of the same color as the font, but the capitals of each state a larger circles. Physical features of the landscape were the same font size and color as cities and capital, but the spacing between each letter was larger; as seen in the Cascade Mountains, curving of the text was also another way I chose to denote physical features.

So to not add too many colors and create chaos, the states were labeled with the same font color as cities, but were not italicized and set to a larger font size. To distinguish states from countries, the labels for the countries were simply a larger font size and placed near each other on either size of the borderline. In the same way, I place the two state labels in close proximity. The pacific oceans was labels the same as states, but was blue and italicized. Other bodies of water were labeled the same as the ocean, but given a smaller font size and placed at an angle depending on the water feature location.

Another challenge I ran into was the placement of all of the labels. I wanted to ensure that all of the cities and capitals were at the same slant/angle, as for the county labels. Some counties had multiple cities were some only had one, so placing them where they didn't overlap but still remained in the boundaries was sometimes a challenge. Some county labels had to overlap the county boundary line or river lines. The island labels also gave me a hard time, but my goal was to keep them matching with how I labeled the counties to ensure consistency. I wanted everything to blend and look effortless, allowing differentiation in font color, size, etc.to establish obvious relations to label and location type.

Retrospectively, I have found a number of things I could alter: the circle on Olympia (in Thurston county) is different from all the rest, Klickitat county is a different color font from all the other counties, and the city labels in Snohomish are not oriented properly. I might also curve the label of Columbia River to the shape of the river.  If I were to do anything different next time, I would absolutely be more meticulous to fixing the varying graticule lines and seemingly random darker land borders in the upper portion of the map. This map also lacks a north arrow and some other basic map elements, though the lab instructions did not call for them for this assignment.

Texas Transportation Corridor


Software: ArcGIS

About: Similar to the previous TPH map projects, these maps were two separate assignments for a Principles of GIS course. The data was provided by our instructor, who had us map the Texas Transportation Corridor. As the first assignment of the course, students were instructed to choose which shape-files/data layers were should be most visually prominent and create a map. As the usual map elements (scale, legend, title, north arrow, etc.) were not required for this lab, my outcome presented as Map A. Map B was the second assignment for the course, where were told to use the first assignment to create a complete map.

Process: Using ArcMap, my biggest struggle with Map A was how to color it. I experimented with gradients, hillshading and transparencies, and finally came up with the color scheme as seen above. In order to make the transportation corridor the most important element in the map (in terms of hierarchy), I made it yellow, since yellow is the opposite color of purple background. This harmonious contrast is complimented well by the tan-ish/pink smaller roadways. If you look closely, the major cities connected by these pink roadways are outlined in light gray, to give them more depth. The gradient of the basemap also provides an element of depth so such a simple map.

Although I could have used the same map of Texas from Map A to create Map B, I wanted to experiment with another color scheme. I kept the gradient and slight hillshaded basemap, but rather than one color fading from light to dark, I had the gradient range from blue to tan. A problem I had with this decision though was how to emphasize the transportation corridor, and it took me a while to find a color that stood out and provided complimentary contrast. The major cities are colors a deeper blue than the shade of west Texas, fluidly instilling a cold color theme that the yet darker blue dots happily compliment. This time I also added county lines, but in a very light gray to keep them subtle and fade in the back. The coloring of Texas within the inset map is very similar to that of the man map of Texas, so to create that visual relationship.

The map elements for Map B are very elementary and simple, although I this was the first time I included shading behind my inset map and legend, as well as a coordinate grid. I enhanced the colder, earthly-toned color theme with a light forest green background, and a consistent serif font.

Retrospectively if I were to do anything different next time, I would have changed my inset map greatly, possibly zooming a little farther in, removing the map details in the bottom right corner of it as well as the labels, so to give it my own twist on the text and font choice. I also would have added a drop shadow behind the green square to give the entire map depth, and maybe even a drop shadow behind the Texas itself.


The Upper Rio Grande 

Software: ArcGIS

About: These maps were all one assignment for a Principles of GIS course. With the provided data, we were instructed to map three different elements of the Upper Rio Grande: snow cover, watershed and relief.

Process: Given the opportunity to create three similar maps, I chose to experiment with three very different color schemes. Retrospectively, creating three maps with a more harmonious color schemes may have been a better idea, as these maps are to be presented next to one another. However, each map's coloring was chosen somewhat to match the theme of the map purpose: Map B deals with snow cover, so I chose an icey blue color with bold contrasts, and Map A deals with water, so I chose very earth-y cool shades of blue and green. Mac C deals with relief so I chose to keep it simple with black and white, so to visualize this surface parameter with ease.

Map A was my favorite of the three, as it has the most harmonious coloring and a clear foreground and background separation. The county and road lines in a subtle darker gray on the background give the map a very well-rounded presence, complimented by excellent placement of the basic map elements. I used color to create a hierarchy of text importance, where the title is the only wording with color, and the supporting text, north arrow, and scale are a light gray. I utilizes the same san serif font on all three of these maps as to bring the thought that they are all related.