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Making Maps for Sustainable Development

  • UNHQ - Conference Room 11 New York USA (map)

Maps enable us to understand the world around us. The data demands of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stresses the need for maps to make informed decisions – to leave no-one behind, we first need to know where people are! However, the creation of maps can be an esoteric art and not everyone can recognize when a perfectly good-looking map is telling them a blatant lie. Such lies may very well be borne out of the map-maker not knowing they’re making a mistake. Other times, maps can be made to be persuasive by playing with human perception, cognition, and manipulating map data in a particular way.

This talk will explore some of the common pitfalls a novice cartographer is likely to make when preparing maps of population data. On their own, they’re simply small issues yet they can easily propagate misinformation to an audience that has no reason to question the construction of the map before them. By focusing on thematic maps, using the Sustainable Development Goals as a case study data set, this talk will demonstrate and explore how, armed with some rudimentary cartographic knowledge you can make solid, informative, and objective maps to support effective communication of population data and understand how to query and interrogate maps to make informed decisions. The talk will also explore a few resources you can take advantage of to improve your own cartographic prowess and help you to go beyond the defaults to become a smarter map-maker and increase the impact of maps in your daily work.


Dr Kenneth Field is a Senior Cartographer at Esri, with a Bachelors in cartography and PhD in Geospatial Information Science. Previously, he was an academic, at the forefront of research in Cartography with over 20 years of experience. He also is now Vice-Chair of the ICA Map Design Commission (after serving as its Chair for eight years), was Editor of The Cartographic Journal for nine years, and has received several awards for his maps and teaching, and has just released his book  “Cartography”. He recently taught a MOOC to over 100,000 people on Cartography. He is co-founder of and