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  • Cartographer's Toolkit: Colors, Typography, Patterns by Gretchen N. Peterson
  • Alexander J. Kent
Cartographer's Toolkit: Colors, Typography, Patterns / Gretchen N. Peterson. Fort Collins, CO: PetersonGIS, 2012. Pp. 184; col. throughout; 8.5 × 8.5 × 0.5˝. ISBN 9780615467948 (paper), US$49.95. Available from:

Time is usually the worst enemy of the map designer, and cartographers must all too often sacrifice rounds of trial and error when searching for a visually successful solution. The arrival of a book called Cartographer's Toolkit, which is "full of map parts to assist in the map production process" (p. xiii) and meant "for all map makers in the world" (p. xiii), then, will appeal to practising cartographers who simply don't buy that the quest for the optimal map is over.

Aiming to inspire, educate, inform, and to assist "beginning cartographers" (p. 109) and "the most seasoned professionals" (p. xiii) alike, Gretchen Peterson offers what appears at first glance to be a handy and appealing full-colour cartographic sourcebook. Taking an altogether different approach from Cynthia Brewer's Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users (Brewer 2008), in which the designs of ready-made maps are practically reverse-engineered to create different effects, Peterson successively presents examples of individual elements (e.g., colours and typefaces) that can be quickly and easily compared before revealing a showcase of distinctive maps. Her goal is to provide a ready reference to assist cartographers in selecting the best of these major components, and thus to help "make your map a stand-out" (p. xiii).

Divided into three chapters ("Colors," "Typography," and "Composition Patterns"), Cartographer's Toolkit includes 30 palettes (300 colour swatches in total), 50 typefaces (25 each of serif and sans serif ), and 28 composition patterns (essentially, different styles that are illustrated by 36 map examples) for comparison. Text is kept to a minimum throughout. Each chapter opens with a short introduction that explains the key terms and justifies the selection of examples that follows, together with some suggestions on using these examples. These introductions are very light on theory, however, and interested readers are directed to (among other texts) Peterson's earlier book, GIS Cartography (Peterson 2009), for more substance. The 30 palettes forming the first chapter, "Color," are divided into three sections: coordinated palettes (for use where a sense of harmony is required for a more cohesive look); differentiated palettes (for easy feature identification); and colour ramps (for displaying magnitudes, as in choropleth maps). A page is devoted to presenting each palette of 10 swatches (complete with HEX, RGB, and CMYK values) using a colour wheel; a basic map example; simple combinations of points, lines, areas, and lettering; and another map that aims to simulate the appearance of these colours as experienced by people with deuteranopia (difficulty in discriminating between colors lying from red through green in the visible spectrum). On the whole, the palettes are well chosen, though the wider application of white type on a yellow background (p. 8) or the palette the author describes as looking like "a teenager's bedroom" (p. 3) is likely to be limited at best. The placement of palettes toward the outer edges of the page facilitates quick comparisons between them, even if the map examples within the differentiated palettes or the colour-ramp sections are strangely devoid of lettering (presumably for clarity in the case of the latter).

The 50 typefaces showcased in the typography chapter are presented in three sections: standard fonts (e.g., Georgia and Arial); free typefaces (e.g., Ingelby and District); and "for fee" typefaces (e.g., Gill Sans). Each double-page spread in this section includes the application of a serif and a sans-serif typeface throughout an identical map extract of Irondale, WA, USA. This acts as a suitable base for comparing the application of type to a range of features (e.g., streets, parks, neighbourhoods, a creek, and a bay - plus an overall title) and at several sizes. The facing page provides basic examples of the typeface, with dummy text, labels from 8 pt to 16 pt, and a small extract of the main map. The choice and placement...


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