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Welcome to Cartographic Communication

A MDW'2022 workshop presented by the NZ Cartographic Society

The New Zealand Cartographic Society is proud to present its first open source Map Design Workshop. It will be held at Victoria University of Wellington on 23 August 2022.

MDW'2022: Cartographic Communication is designed for anyone wanting to learn to create maps for a non-specialist audience. It will focus on techniques that are key to effective cartographic communication, enabling a map to convey its message(s) to as wide a range of people as possible.

This workshop will be of interest to a diverse audience, including those from academia, the government sector, the private sector, and non-government organizations. It will involve a series of guided hands-on exercises where participants can learn through direct experience.

The instructor will share techniques and experiences from a twenty-year career in cartography. The workshop will include lessons learned from creating the award-winning book We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa, along with approaches employed in his roles at the NZ Herald and Auckland Regional Public Health Services. Learning materials and example data will be supplied for the workshop. Demonstrations will use the free open source QGIS software.

Note: this course is bring your own device. Particpants will need to bring a laptop preloaded with GIS software (e.g. QGIS or ArcGIS).


Whether preparing maps for a couple of colleagues or creating online interactives for an international audience, a good cartographic product needs to clearly communicate its message to its readers.

In this workshop you will learn principles and techniques for communicating geographic information to an audience. Over a series of exercises, you will learn how to create useful and impactful maps that translate in a range of settings. The workshop will cover map design, cartographic techniques, readability testing and considerations for designing for multiple formats, sizes and levels of interactivity.

Through the day, you will learn how to:
  • Appraise cartographic requirements and establish design goals
  • Assess potential audiences and incorporate their skill levels and situational context into your designs
  • Use colour for impact and legibility
  • Improve reader comprehension with thoughtful titles, labels and annotations
  • Understand whether a map is working through user testing
  • Design for multiple print and screen sizes
  • Understand the nuanced differences between designing static maps and interactives
  • Do all the above on tight deadlines

The aim of this workshop is to help you become a better map maker. By the end of the day, you will have a better understanding of how readers encounter a map and how careful cartographic design can make maps more welcoming and legible. You will refamiliarise yourselves with the elements of a map and various techniques to make maps both attractive and useful. You will learn how to test a map and iterate on a design until it communicates patterns and insights in the underlying data. Finally, you will understand the subtle differences between different mapping formats and modes of interaction.

Workshop Presenter

Dr. Chris McDowall
Dr. Chris McDowallFreelance Cartographer
Dr. Chris McDowall
Dr. Chris McDowallFreelance Cartographer
Professional Cartographer and Adviser

Chris trained as a geographer with a focus on cartography and human geography. He currently works with a range of organisations, including Figure.NZ, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people make better decisions with data.

Dr. Chris McDowall
Dr. Chris McDowallFreelance Cartographer
Dr. Chris McDowall
Dr. Chris McDowallFreelance Cartographer
Professional Cartographer and Adviser

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Skill Level

This workshop is suitable for anyone with a basic understanding of geographic information systems (GIS). Participants are expected to be able to load data, change symbologies, and create basic map layouts in their platform of choice. 

The workshop does not require any programming experience or knowledge of advanced analytical techniques.


The workshop will be held at the Kelburn campus of Victoria University of Wellington.  The room is #104 in the Te Toki a Rata (TTR) building.  The best entrace is near Glasgow Street and Kelburn Parade. Refer to the Kelburn campus map for more information.



This course will run from 09:00 to approximately 17:00. Please arrive at the the venue by 08:45 on Tuesday morning to check-in and set up your workstation. Participants will need to bring their own laptop.

Important Dates

No refunds after 16 Aug 2022
Registration close
16 Aug 2022

Important Dates

No refunds after 16 Aug
Registration close
16 Aug

Packages & Fees

Workshop registration does not include lunch. There are several eatery options near the venue or participants may bring their own consumables.

* Valid student identification required

Full Registration

  • Workshop participation
  • Morning/afternoon refreshments

Student Registration *

  • Workshop participation
  • Morning/afternoon refreshments


In the event you are unable to attend the workshop, you may reassign your registration to another person without charge. If requesting a refund, the following rules apply:

  • Written cancellation received by 16 August 2022: 90% refund
  • No refunds will be given after 16 August 2022
Please submit your cancellation to geocart@cartography.org.nz. Be sure to specify if you are requesting a transfer or refund.