Welcome! In this short guide we share some insights and tips for making thematic maps. Our goal is to cover the important concepts in cartography and flag the important decision points in the map-making process. As with many activities in life, there isn't always a single best answer in cartography, and in those cases we've tried to outline some of the pros and cons to different solutions.
This is by no means a replacement for a full textbook on cartography; rather it is a quick reference guide for those moments when you're stumped, unsure of what to do next, or unfamiliar with the terminology. While the recommendations on these pages are short and not loaded with academic references, please appreciate that they represent a thoughtful synthesis of decades of map-making research.
This guide was written by Axis Maps, adapted from documentation written for indiemapper in 2010. However, the content here is about general cartography principles, not software-specific tips. To see the material in its original context, visit indiemapper and its help pages.
General Map Making Topics
- The Basics of Data Classification
- Using Colors on Thematic Maps
- Labeling and text hierarchy in cartography
- Level of Measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, and Numerical Data
- Univariate Maps Versus Multivariate Maps
- Map Projections
- Standardizing Data
- What are Thematic Maps?
Univariate Thematic Map Types
Multivariate Thematic Map Types
- Bivariate Cartograms
- Bivariate Choropleth
- Bivariate Proportional Symbols
- Proportional Labels
- Colored Proportional Labels
- Value-By-Alpha Maps
Want to dig a bit deeper? Have a look at a few of our favorite textbooks: