GEOGRAPHY 3540/8545: Introduction to Cartography & GIS Lab (2 cr)

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Michael P. Peterson

Office: Durham Science Center 264
Office Hours:

MTWTh 2:00-5:30; MW 8:15-9; TTh 6:45-8

Joe Knapp: MTW 4-5:30; Th 4-8:15 PM & upon request. email at Joseph Knapp <>

Office Phone:
e-mail address
Web Page

INTRODUCTION TO CARTOGRAPHY & GIS LAB introduces the basic concepts and techniques for graphic design and mapping. The hands-on lab examines how object-oriented graphic programs like Adobe Illustrator can be used to design maps and illustrations for publication and for presentation through the web. Through lectures, demonstrations, exercises and critiques, students learn the elements of map design, Gestalt principles, theories of perception, theories of graphic organization, and spatial perception. Exercises are structured to meet specific objectives and are designed to build upon each other. Each exercise must be completed before moving to the next assignment. All assignments are posted on a web page for instructor and student critique.


  1. Demonstrate mastery of the design process that includes research, creativity, and self-editing;
  2. Study and apply theory to better understand how images create meaningful communication;
  3. Improve our application of and appreciation for the visual language;
  4. Become fluent with the use of digital design tools and techniques and integrate these tools to create meaningful visual communication;
  5. Apply your knowledge of the design principles to create cohesive visual products;
  6. Learn how to respond to constructive criticism and take the steps necessary to defend or improve your project or incorporate new ideas;
  7. Learn how to constructively critique the work of others from formal, technical and conceptual frames-of-reference;
  8. Learn how to organize time and meet deadlines. Every design problem has an infinite number of possible solutions. Only with patience, careful planning and clear thought will your ideas develop into visual work that communicates clearly.

Readings and course participation, designed to supplement such readings, form the core of the course. Students are held responsible for all referenced offline and online materials. Be prepared to answer questions on the designated days as this will constitute part of the course participation grade. The use of computers is not allowed during lectures.

Discussions and Demonstrations
There is a great deal of information to cover in this course and relatively little time. It is in your best interest to...

I will be conveying information that may not be available in written form. It is critical that you pay attention to avoid missing out on key information. If you miss what I say, there is no way to get the information in another way.

This is a must! Remember, your classmates may or may not have thought of the question you asked, so asking questions will allow us all to learn. In short, ASK! ASK! ASK!

Take Notes
It is essential for you to take notes during lectures, presentations, and demonstrations in order for you to have an organized body of information you can refer to in the future. Please have the proper materials at hand for taking notes.

Projects and Exercises
There will weekly assignments for this class. The class will meet as a group twice each week for a lecture or demonstration period and to look at the submitted homework. Additionally, you are expected to dedicate at least 6 hours outside of class each week to your homework.

Personal Conduct
I ask that you be considerate of others in class. Activities such as whispering, exchanging notes, using a computer, texting, talking on the phone, reading a newspaper, or leaving the classroom during class all disturb the people around you. Please consider that your classmates may take their college education more seriously than you do. If I see you engaged in any disruptive activities, I will ask you to stop. If you continue, I will ask you to leave. If this happens more than once, you can be removed from the course.

1) Storage device.  A USB flash drive to save all assignments (16 GB minimum) with USB 3.0 interface. The Macintosh computers have a single account that everyone shares so you need to store your files on your own flash drives.
2) Save all of your work on your flash drive and on Box. Files saved on the lab computers may be deleted at any point.

3) Free online account.

Undergrauates: Assignments – 70%; Discussion – 10% ; Final exam – 20%

Graduates: Assignments – 60%; Discussion – 10%; Lab introductions– 20%; Final exams – 10%.

Grading is carried through on the total points accumulated. Letter grades are assigned in the following way: A+: 97 and above; A: 91-97; A-: 90-91; B+: 87-90; B: 81-87; B-: 80-83; etc.

All assignments are submitted in two ways - on paper and through a webpage. Leave a paper version on your keyboard and I will leave comments for improvement. Changes are due the following week.

Assignments will also be uploaded to a webhosting account and linked from a single file called "index.html". Each exercise will be discussed at the beginning of class on Tuesday and this discussion constitutes 10% of your grade. The exercises that you submit will represent an online portfolio of your work.

The assignments will be introduced during the Tuesday class session. A more hands-on demonstration will be made at the beginning of class on Thursday. The assignments are due the following Tuesday for two points. If you complete the assignment by placing the paper version on your keyboard by the end of the day on Friday, you will be awarded 3 pts. This extra point can make a big difference in your grade.

A final exam will be given and will consist of short answer and essay questions. The purpose of the exam is to demonstrate the ability to articulate course content in written form.