Tom Patterson of the National Park Service to give talk on campus

National Park Service cartographer, Tom Patterson, will give a talk entitled “Creating Natural Earth” at the Yi-Fu Tuan lecture series in the Geography Department this Friday.  The Department will host an informal reception with Tom in the Cartography Lab prior to his lecture.  Please join us!

2:00-3:00 pm:  Reception in the Cart Lab (M390 Science Hall)
3:30 pm: Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture, Science Hall Room 180


Natural Earth
is an integrated collection of raster and vector data for making small-scale maps. Its intended users are practicing mapmakers, which makes it unique among geospatial datasets. I will discuss the various versions of Natural Earth—from land cover, to vector base maps, to cross-blended hypsometric tints—emphasizing the design and technical challenges of creating a world map dataset.

The idea of “cartographic realism” guided the development of Natural Earth, a design approach that is an outgrowth of my National Park Service mapping. When appropriate, and in moderation, I add natural environment effects to park maps, effects that people are familiar with and find pleasing—modulated terrain shadows, warm illumination, organic textures, and natural colors. The goal is to make a map that will attract and hold the reader’s attention as long as possible, to encourage visual exploration. Natural Earth applies these effects to small-scale maps, trying to translate the physical world’s beautiful chaos into comprehensible spatial information. Hal Shelton (USGS) and Tibor Toth (National Geographic), pioneers of cartographic realistic mapmaking during the late-manual era, influenced the development of Natural Earth.

Comments are closed.