The next four years

At the International Cartographic Conference recently held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the International Cartographic Association General Assembly voted to re-approve the Map Design Commission for the term 2015-2019. As part of the process, we presented the tangible outputs from the first four years of our collective efforts. We have met, and exceeded our original terms of reference. The following activities (with lead organizer or contributor in parentheses) highlight the work of the Commission to date:

  • Set up a new web site ( and Twitter account (@ICAMapDesign) (Field). At time of writing, 120 web site subscribers.
  • Themed session at the 2011 NACIS conference in Madison Wisconsin (Field, Oct 2011)
  • Co-organised (with ICA Commission on Cog. Viz.) two sessions at Association of American Geographers conference in New York (Field, Feb 2012)
  • Special Issue of The Cartographic Journal based on papers from AAG sessions in February (Griffin, Fabrikant & Kent eds, Nov 2012)
  • Field & Demaj two-part paper arising from Commission research published in The Cartographic Journal Vol 49.1 (subsequently won Henry Johns award for Best Paper in 2013)
  • Presentations at BCS Annual Symposium (Field, Kent Jul 2012)
  • Hosted paper session at GeoCart 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand (Field, Aug 2012)
  • Two-day pre-conference workshop ahead of GeoCart 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand focusing on thematic map design (Field, Aug 2012)
  • Hosted discussion meetings at Esri User Conferences (Field, July 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • One-day ‘Aesthetics of Mapping’ forum at NACIS conference in Portland, Oregon (Jenny, Oct 2012)
  • Series of three paper sessions on Map Design at Association of American Geographers conference in Los Angeles (Field & Turner, co-convened with Commission on NeoCartography, April 2013)
  • Special Issue of Cartographic Perspectives on Aesthetics in Mapping (edited by Jenny with lead article by Kent and further article by Kent, Field, Jenny & Hopfstock, No.73, 2012)
  • ICA Dresden pre-conference workshop (co-convened with ICA Commission on NeoCartography) (Field, Kent, Chilton, Turner Aug 2013)
  • Strong presence at ICC Dresden including paper sessions, business meetings. (Field, Kent, Jenny and Hopfstock all presented papers and chaired sessions, Aug 2013)
  • Organised, co-sponsored and managed the judging and awards for the FOSS4G Map Gallery, Nottingham (Field, Sep 2013)
  • Presentations at Society of Cartographers Summer School (Field, Kent, Chilton Sep 2013)
  • Lead article in GIM International tie-in with ICC Dresden (Field, Aug 2013)
  • MapCarte initiative: a daily blog highlighting and discussing great classic and contemporary cartography (Field, with some additional contributions by Kent, Demaj, Hopfstock, Jenny & others 2014)
  • Pinterest gallery of classic and contemporary cartography (com/icamapdesign/mapcarte) (Field, 2014)
  • Sponsored the world’s first ‘Mapathon’ at BCS Symposium (Field & Sharpe, Jun 2014)
  • Keynote address at GeoCart 2014, Auckland New Zealand (Field, Sep 2014)
  • Keynote at Society of Cartographers 50th Annual Summer School, Glasgow (Kent, Sep 2014)
  • Keynote address at IMIA (Americas) conference in Denver CO, USA (Field, Nov 2014)
  • Lead essay in NACIS Atlas of Design Volume 2 (Field, 2014)
  • Both Kenneth Field and Bernie Jenny have won multiple awards during the period for maps and work in map design including ICA Best Paper map Dresden 2013, BCS Special Commendation 2013, GeoCart 2014 People’s Choice, FOSS4G Best map and People’s Choice 2014
  • Co-hosted a series of paper sessions (with the Commission for Cog. Viz) at the AAG meeting in Chicago, April 2015 (Field, April 2015).
  • Co-organized a pre-conference workshop for ICC Rio 2015 as well as Commission members organizing paper sessions and giving papers (Field, Kent, Muehlenhaus, Aug 2015).

As we look forward to the second four years Bernie Jenny and Anja Hopfstock will be stepping down from their role as vice chairs of the Commission. Alex Kent will also step down as he is keen to pursue the development of a new ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping (approved at ICC 2015). We’re delighted to announce that Dr Ian Muehlenhaus (Geography Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison), who has been actively involved in a number of Commission activities, will become vice-chair for the period 2015-2019. Additionally, Damian Saunder (Esri Inc) will take on the role of vice-chair. Dr Kenneth Field will continue in the role of Chair of the Commission and records his thanks for the work Bernie, Anja and Alex put in to helping make the first four years such a successful one for the Commission.

The terms of reference for the period 2015-2019 will be:

  • To maintain, expand and improve the content on our web site and across our various social media platforms;
  • To add to the MapCarte initiative and develop the content into a book;
  • To prepare a major book that explores the interface of cartography, graphic and information design;
  • To take a leading role in the organization of awards at ICA conferences (at the request of the ICA Executive);
  • To organize sessions at ICA conferences in 2017 and 2019 focused on map design theory and practice;
  • To organize, sponsor or co-host Commission meetings either independent of or in conjunction with other cartographic events to promote map design discourse and practice;
  • To prepare one Special Issue of a leading journal of cartography to explore map design for new mapmakers; and
  • To collaborate with colleagues in other ICA Commissions as appropriate in complementary areas of interest.

Many of these initiatives are already underway. We’ve contributed in the region of 40 written entries to the new book ‘MAP’ by Phaidon Press. Ken and Damien are currently mid-way through writing a new text on cartography and MapCarte will continue as an occasional series.

If you have ideas, papers, blog entries, map critiques or, well, anything that relates to the role of design in cartography, that you wish to share through our web site then please get in touch with either myself, Ian or Damien. Similarly, if you are interested in the Commission sponsoring a workshop of small event focused on map design themes then get in touch!