My Account     Contact Us     Cart


World Bee Day 2022

Beekeeping in New Zealand

Today is May 20th, which means that it is World Bee Day! This year we will be celebrating with an infographic map detailing the prevalence of beekeeping in the nation of New Zealand. The map has been compiled and designed using the Avenza MAPublisher extension for Adobe Illustrator.

World Bee Day 2022 Beekeeping in New Zealand Header Image

What is Beekeeping?

Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is the maintenance of bee colonies by humans, commonly in man-made hives. Beekeeping results in the creation of many products in our lives such as beeswax, royal jelly, and many different types of honey.

Why do we celebrate World Bee Day?

World Bee Day was first celebrated in 2018, after being proposed by Slovenia to the United Nations in prior years. May 20th is the birthdate of the pioneer of beekeeping Anton Janša, who was born in Carniola in 1734, which was a region that falls within present-day Slovenia. 

The purpose of World Bee Day is to celebrate the importance of bees and other pollinators to many aspects of the world’s ecosystems and economies. They are responsible for the pollination of many crops, with nearly ⅓ of every spoonful of food we eat depending upon pollinators. This makes bees a very important part of the agricultural industries, and therefore the economies of many countries.

With many pesticides and other chemicals negatively contributing to the health of the world bee populations, it is crucial to raise awareness and promote care when creating agricultural and other environmental policies and processes.

Beekeeping in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the top 20 countries ranked by total number of beehives, with over 835,000 registered beehives. The organization Apiculture New Zealand, or ApiNZ, was created in 2016 to support, advocate for and benefit the apiculture industry of the country. Membership is voluntary and consists of about 2500 beekeepers. 

New Zealand produces many different types of honey, including population variations such as mānuka honey. The story map we have created using MAPublisher locates the 23 known beekeeping clubs across New Zealand, as well as highlights some interesting facts about beekeeping in the island nation. All in all, beekeeping is an important part of the New Zealand economy and agriculture industry.

World Bee Day 2022 Beekeeping in New Zealand Infographic Map Avenza Systems

Fun Facts About Bees

Here are a couple fun facts you might not know about bees and how important it is to continue protecting them:

  • Did you know that nearly 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops depend on pollination from bees and other pollinators? It’s true! Crops that are dependent on pollination are five times more valuable than those that are not.
  • If you find a bee that appears to be struggling, you can gently place it on a bee-friendly flower. If there are none around, you can provide it with energy by giving it a couple drops of a 1:1 solution of white sugar and water.
  • India is the country with the most registered beehives, with over 12.2 million beehives as of 2020!

Feeling Buzzed About Bee Day? Learn More!

In the spirit of World Bee Day we encourage you to learn more about beekeeping! Check out these great bee resources; World Bee Day website, Apiculture New Zealand website.

Avenza Map Gallery Spotlight: 4LAND

In this article, we are showcasing the 2nd Place Runner-Up of the 2021 Avenza Map Competition. This impressive topographic reference map of the Monte Rosa area was a collaborative effort between Remo Nardini,  Founder and Chief Technical Officer, and the whole 4LAND team. The map is centered on two of the most renowned mountains of the Alps:  Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino (commonly referred to as the Matterhorn).  The map encompasses a massive and diverse area. From the glaciers and valleys crossed by the Alta Via n.1 highway in the Aosta valley to the panoramic snow-capped peaks that the Alps are known for. The high valleys of the Monte Rosa area emanate a particular charm, with its woods and pastures making it stand out among other areas in the Aosta Valley. 

Remo and his team manually collected trail information and point-of-interest data directly in the field with the Avenza Maps App and combined this with carefully crafted shaded relief techniques to bring the mountainous terrain of this rugged area to life. The map itself is designed for print at 1:25000 scale and is meant to offer a high-quality, waterproof, and tearproof map for use on the trails. The map provides an abundance of useful information for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and a host of other summer and winter outdoor activities. Smart label placement means this map is not only impressive to look at but highly functional when out on the trails. 

Select the images below to see a detailed look at 4LAND’s map

Making the Map

The 4LAND team is known for ground-truthing and manually collecting the data that goes into their map products. Trails, placemarks, and other important data were collected directly on the ground using the Avenza Maps App. Supplementing this with pre-existing and custom-developed cartographic datasets meant the map could provide a substantial amount of valuable information to its users. 

Using the Geographic Imager Plugin for Adobe Photoshop, the team could elaborate on a custom elevation product to create the enhanced shaded relief basemap that gives the map its gorgeous look. They then crafted the details of the map in Illustrator using MAPublisher. After importing all map datasets, the team used MAP views to align, scale, and project map data layers onto an Illustrator artboard. The team made use of the Vector Crop and MAP Selection tools to filter and process the data down to their specific area of interest. 

The 4LAND team applied a custom stylesheet using MAP Themes to create the beautiful textures and colours that make each part of the map stand out. MAP Themes applies rule-based styles that are based on MAP Attribute data contained in each map data layer. This careful work ensures each region is distinct and eye-catching. Every glacier crevasse and serac is carefully shaded to create depth, and woodlands are textured to reflect the irregular patterns of foliage. 

One of the most impressive features of this map is the wonderfully detailed labels. This was achieved using the LabelPro add-on, and enabled Remo and his team to perform rules-based, collision-free label placement using a  comprehensive suite of user-defined labelling parameters. With LabelPro,  they could specify how each label should be stylized (to give each label type a unique look and feel) and also define how the labeling engine would handle label placement to avoid overlap, crowding, or mislabelling. 

Lastly, stylistic elements of the map were touched up using native Illustrator tools, MAP Layout tools, and grids and graticules. The map itself is available in digital form for use with the Avenza Maps app. Visit the Avenza Map Store to see other fantastic maps by 4LAND or check out their website to learn more about their other high-quality mapping products. 

Avenza Map Gallery Spotlight: Roger Smith

In this article, we are showcasing the recently announced Open-category winner of the 2021 Avenza Map Competition. This fantastic entry was created by Roger Smith, expert cartographer and owner of Geographx in Wellington, New Zealand. Roger’s grand-prize winning entry is a truly remarkable display of map craftsmanship. The map provides a detailed look at the topography and trail coverage surrounding one of New Zealand’s most beautiful wilderness areas. His expert usage of natural colour basemaps and shaded relief creates a truly stunning result.

This topographic map focuses on the area covered by Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, and the adjacent conservation parks and designated wilderness areas. It presents park boundaries, back-country walking trails, and the many camping shelters that are scattered throughout the area. The map itself is designed for print as a wall map and utilizes a natural colour basemap to create an eye-catching visual guide for the region.

The map can be used to familiarize park visitors with the area and assist recreational visitors with trip-planning in the rugged back-country trails of the area. The natural colour basemap is designed to maximize viewer understanding and appreciation of the physical environment while providing a pleasing backdrop that highlights important points, trails and places on the map.

Select the images below to see a detailed look at Roger’s map

Making the Map

The cartographic design elements and vector art creation utilized a wide range of tools in MAPublisher. Some of the vector data that went into the map were obtained through the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and the Land Information Department, while others were custom-crafted by Roger and his team at Geographx. Notably, the Geographx team custom-built the natural colour basemap and DEM-derived hillshade that gives the map its unique look and feel.

MAPublisher allowed Roger to import his data layers into an Adobe Illustrator environment that was conducive to flexible cartographic design work. Using the MAP Views panel, he could easily adjust and modify the projection and scaling of his map. Where necessary, Roger leveraged the many MAPublisher Geoprocessing and Data Editing tools to manipulate or simplify vector art layers for better representation on the final map.

As MAPublisher maintains spatial referencing for each data layer, he could place and register his custom natural colour, and raster hillshade layers to create his basemap. Fine-tuning would ensure his vector layers (including roads, campsites, trails, and place markers) would all be accurately placed and aligned with their real-world locations.

Roger created unique labels for the hundreds of different placemarks and trail lines on the maps. Using MAP Attribute data that are retained for each data layer, Roger used the Label Features tool to efficiently create and place labels for each layer. With Label Features, Roger could define custom rules that ensure each label stands apart from the other. For important place markers and points of interest, Roger used the Create Halos tool to make certain labels stand out more prominently.

Needless to say, this spectacular piece of work represents the culmination of countless hours of design effort and dedication. Roger has added this map to the impressive collection of cartographic works produced by Geographx. To learn more about other fantastic map products available from Geographx, visit their website.

Announcing the Avenza Map Competition 2021 Winners

We’re excited to announce that the 2021 Avenza Map Competition has now concluded. This past year’s competition saw map-makers and cartographers from around the world submit their best and most impressive work. We had some truly impressive displays of cartographic design this year, with competitors demonstrating how they use Avenza mapping software to make eye-catching and impactful cartographic products. After multiple rounds of judging, discussions, and time spent reviewing our scorecards, the Avenza team would like to congratulate this year’s prize winners!

Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for our Winner’s Spotlight articles. Each article will provide an in-depth look at the winning map entries, with insights from their creators, and an overview of tools and techniques used to develop their prize-winning maps.

The winner’s maps and a selection of honourable mentions will also be showcased in the new Map Gallery, coming soon!

Grand Prize Winner (Open Category)

The Glacier Coast and Aoraki/Mount Cook Region
Roger Smith
Wellington, New Zealand

Learn more about Roger’s winning map entry in the Winners Spotlight Article

2nd Place Runner-Up (Open Category)

A Topographic Reference Map of the Monte Rosa Area
Remo Nardini and the 4LAND Team
Bolzano, Italy

Learn more about 4LAND’s winning map entry in their Winners Spotlight Article

Coming Soon: Avenza Map Competition Gallery

The judges would also like to offer special recognition to a number of other incredible entries. A selection of winners, honourable mentions, and notable map entries will be showcased on the upcoming Map Gallery page.

How to Find Data

Finding Data in a Big Data World

When it comes to map-making for beginners, one of the most challenging aspects is finding the right data in the first place. You start out with this fantastic idea for mapping the annual airplay frequency of Mariah Carey on traditional radio… only to find the data behind a paywall. What’s with that?

Turns out, it’s very common. Data is commonly referred to as the most valuable resource on the planet for a reason. Companies make a lot of money by collecting data and selling it or selling indirect access to it. So, before you get too excited about an idea, take a step back and think about the data.

Where to Find Data

There are a lot of reasons why paying for data may not be an option for you and we’re not here to judge, so moving along. 

When you’re not able to pay for data, you’ll need to be less choosy about what you’re creating. This type of data hunting is a more broad search, find some data, then let it speak to you! You may need to be a bit more creative, but free data is out there and if you’re willing to dig you can still create wonderful maps with it!

Think Where

The first thing to consider with how to find data is where in the world are you looking for it. Developed countries often give public access to census data or other government-funded research. This can often be the most reliable data as well. Something to consider when thinking about the data you’re looking for. 

Think How Big

The size of your project scope can also have a big impact on where you try and find data. If you’re looking for data only on one country, that will be a lot easier to find (in general) than the same data for every country in the world.

You can often find high-level data (think population) at a national global level, but if you go more granular (think language spoken) it could get more difficult to find. There also would be a lot more variables if you chose language spoken globally, this could affect how you ultimately portray the data.

Think When

Another consideration is from which point in time you want to collect data. Depending on when in history you’re looking, it can be either very difficult or very easy to find data. Keep in mind that this changes when you look at different countries around the world. 

In general, anything in the 1900s forward in developed countries should have some data. But depending on when specifically and what you’re looking for there could be a lot of range. 

This ultimately goes back to the point made above about letting the data guide you. You may not be able to create the exact map you thought you were going to create when you started thinking about the project. Often you’ll find you come up with something even better!

Helpful Links

Still don’t know where to start? Try some of these helpful links for easily accessible data!

Wherever you find it, Use Avenza Systems to Create It!

Whatever Adobe environment you prefer to work in, Avenza has a solution for you!

Avenza MAPublisher is cartography software that seamlessly integrates more than fifty GIS mapping tools into Adobe Illustrator to help you create beautiful maps. Whereas Avenza Geographic Imager mapping software enhances Adobe Photoshop to make working with spatial imagery quick and efficient.

Download your free trial of MAPublisher or Geographic Imager today!

Cartographer Chronicles: Gene Thorp

In this edition of Cartographer Chronicles, we welcome Gene Thorp. Gene is a renowned, award-winning cartographer who has become a staple of the map-making community. Gene displays an expertise in map design honed through nearly 30 years of experience. Gene skillfully applies his craft by using maps to tell fascinating stories and communicate important information about history, geopolitics, and the world around us. In this issue of Cartographer Chronicles, Gene is telling his own story, sharing with us how he came into map-making as a career and his interesting journey through the world of cartography.


The cartography bug bit me when I was very young, before I could even read. I know this because I was captivated by artist David Greenspan’s illustrated maps, dozens of which I found in my grandfather’s American Heritage Pictorial History of the Civil War. Each map contained hundreds of little hand-drawn soldiers fighting across all types of terrain. I spent hours studying every little detail and harassing my poor older brothers to read what the cryptic numbered captions said. When I got older, I realized many of those battlefields were only a day’s drive from where I lived, so I persuaded my parents to visit one on a family trip. Greenspan’s illustrations were so effective that I was able to easily visualize what had happened there. It was almost like I had already visited the battlefield before. I was hooked on maps, but at that young age, I never dreamed I would have a career-making them. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and I was early into college pursuing a history degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). I had to pay for my school so I worked part-time at a Hechinger hardware store. One of my coworkers there knew I had an interest in maps and told me UMBC had one of the best cartography programs in the country and suggested that I check it out. I took Cartography 101 the next semester and realized this was the career path for me. Under the mentorship of Professors Joe School and Tom Rabenhorst I was part of the last class that was taught photometric techniques using scribe coat and linotype, and the first class to design and produce maps solely using computers. In a school internship program, I was lucky to be chosen as the project editor on what was likely the first-ever digitally produced U.S. atlas for a company called Military Living. 

Three years later with a degree in geography, a degree in history, and a much-valued certificate in cartography, I teamed up with a friend from school and we ventured out into the real world to try our hands at commercial mapping. Sadly, our timing was off. Our business was launched immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The once robust defense industry suddenly downsized and the country entered a recession. Our cartography business was essentially shuttered after only one year. Good cartography positions were hard to come by, so I expanded my horizons and jumped into graphic design which at that time had many more job openings.

Starting from the bottom, over the next eight years I worked at prominent graphic design firms in the Washington, D.C. area designing and producing magazines, logos, brochures, websites, and illustrations. It turned out to be a great experience where I learned page layout, cover design, image manipulation, illustration, and other publication techniques from some extremely capable artists and designers. They taught me the importance of typography and that good design did more than make a layout look attractive, more importantly, it effectively communicated information. These were lessons I took with me for the rest of my career. 

During that time, I never abandoned cartography. I picked up small mapping freelance projects wherever I could find them hoping maybe one day I could get back into the field full-time. My big break came in 2000 when I was brought onto The Washington Post staff as a cartographer by the talented Art Director Michael Keegan and the extremely gifted Chief Cartographer Richard Furno, a former National Geographic cartographer who was a principal designer of the iconic 1969 moon map. He also developed a custom CAD-based mapping application called Azimuth, which, in conjunction with Macromedia Freehand, Adobe Photoshop, and ArcInfo, were the primary programs we initially used to create maps for the newspaper. Geographic points, lines, polygons, and raster data were brought into Azimuth or ArcInfo to be projected then exported. Raster data was further manipulated in Photoshop. Everything was then imported into Freehand where the map was designed, styled, and labeled. Each type of feature like roads, rivers, and urban areas had been color-coded in Azimuth or ArcInfo so they could be easily selected, stylized, and labeled in Freehand. 

Over the next 15 years, I created thousands of maps, from simple locators to full double-truck spreads on every topic imaginable. One of the map projects I was most proud of was the Presidential election result maps published the day after the election which displayed each candidate’s margin of victory by county.

 The maps were designed in perspective to clearly emphasize how much weight small and densely populated counties contributed to the overall election result. Another favorite was the Obama Inauguration map showing attendees the parade route, jumbotrons, vendors, first aid stations, and the all-important locations of portable restrooms! It was fun to walk through the crowd and see so many people using it. 

Environmental disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and oil spills were all too common topics to be mapped. When one occurred, all other projects were immediately sidelined to provide weeks-long detailed cartographic coverage. This included hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Irene, earthquakes like those in Indonesia, Japan, or Haiti, and man-made disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill whose massive oil slick spread for weeks across the Gulf of Mexico.

 With September 11th happening less than one year after I was hired, covering terrorism and military actions across the globe was another major part of my duties at the newspaper. I made what seems like countless static and interactive maps of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the civil war in Syria, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But mapping at the Post wasn’t always serious. I was able to fit in extra time to support travel stories, illustrate a few Kid’s Post graphics, and contribute research and cartography to a 10 part illustrated series on the history of Washington, D.C. (which won gold at the international Malofiej awards).

Among my favorite responsibilities was a five-year project of timelines, articles, and interactive maps to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. 

All the while, I created custom maps on the side for numerous bestselling books like those in Rick Atkinson’s World War Two Liberation Trilogy series (which won a Pulitzer Prize) and oversize maps for exhibitions at museums like the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of the Bible, and The Seminary Museum in Gettysburg and many others. 

After working 15 years in the news industry, I accepted a job in the federal government as a senior cartographer at the U.S. Department of State, where for the last six years have I operated under the direction of Lee Schwartz in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues (GGI), within the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). 

In this capacity, I work with an extremely knowledgeable group of geographers, scientists, and other subject-matter experts to support the full spectrum of the Department’s foreign policy missions. Working closely with my fellow cartographers in the Geographic Information Unit (GIU) and Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), we produce hundreds of maps each year that help visualize and explain a wide range of topics and issues; such as the Department’s efforts to defeat international terrorist groups; illustrate the maritime claims of countries in places like the South China Sea, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Arctic; map the government’s policy on disputed international boundaries along the China-India border, and highlight the buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine.

I also work on the international boundary and sovereignty team that regularly advises policymakers on the geography and history of territorial disputes and produces the publicly available Large-Scale International Boundaries (LSIB) dataset, a set of digital lines used by cartographers and other geospatial professionals as the source for the world’s international boundaries reflecting the foreign policy of the United States.   

I have been very lucky to rub elbows with some of the most amazing cartographers, designers, illustrators, writers, analysts, policymakers, editors, developers, photographers, and programmers of our time. The work has been fast-paced and challenging, but also extremely rewarding. It’s incredible to see how much technology has altered the landscape over the last 30 years. In the old days, I traced government base maps with a scribe tool and used peel coat, or digitized data on the “high-speed” 8MB RAM and 100MB hard drive computers. When I started at The Washington Post the mapping process was all digital, but the data we used was mostly what we created ourselves. When shapefiles or spreadsheets were available, we used Azimuth or other products to select and organize what we needed, before projecting and exporting the data. But when the files were imported into Adobe Illustrator for design and labeling (Illustrator replaced Freehand in 2005), the data lost all its attributes. Mapping expanded rapidly into 3D and I utilized programs such as Bryce 3D and Google Earth to create a vast assortment of perspective maps on tight deadlines. 

Cartography also increasingly became accessible on the internet. At first, I made static locator maps and created custom map tiles for interactive traffic applications, but soon advanced to writing the actual applications, one of which was a multipurpose timeline that interfaced with Google maps that could play data ranges overtime on top of zoomable custom tilesets. 

Midway through my career at the newspaper, Richard Furno retired, and by 2011 all support for Azimuth ended. I needed an affordable replacement mapping application that could custom project data and still interface with Illustrator. This is when I discovered MAPublisher. I had known about it for many years and had heard good things about it from colleagues, but up to that time Azimuth had always worked for my purposes. When I finally dug into MAPublisher’s capabilities I was instantly impressed. Not only could MAPublisher import and project a large array of data types, it maintained the data georeferencing and attributes within Illustrator, all the while allowing me to still perform analysis on it. I could now add or remove attribute fields, make calculations, join spreadsheets, create proportional circles and custom style points, lines, and polygons, all based on the data attributes. Making last-minute map scale changes was also much easier because labels maintained their size and association with their associated features whenever the map was enlarged or reduced. Creating custom data became easier too. I could register a base map or satellite image on existing data, trace the information I needed, then move it to a MAPublisher layer where it instantly became georeferenced. I could add and fill out custom attribute fields, then export the entire layer of new information to virtually any geospatial format for use in all the mainstream GIS applications. Another useful feature was that I could import only a small section of a large dataset. Had I started using MAPublisher earlier I could very easily be able to pull data from my older projects into the new ones. MAPublisher continues to be my core mapping application.

Returning to my roots in history, I’ve recently been using MAPublisher to create a detailed and accurate database of the mid-Atlantic region as it would have appeared during the American Civil War, 1861–1865. First I have stripped away modern features like roads, reservoirs, and manmade shorelines, and, using a variety of historical maps, restored historical features such as long since disappeared roads, rivers, shorelines, fords, railroads, bridges, and towns. An accurate base of geospatial data allows for the correct placement of the plethora of temporal data available from primary sources such as troop movements, refugee movements, weather events, and personal experiences that are tied to a specific historical location. All of this information is either used directly in MAPublisher to create maps, or exported and used in any application that can read geospatial information. I may never be able to mimic the historical map illustrations of David Greenspan that engrossed me as a child so long ago, but perhaps I’ll be able to recreate the world of that time in such a way that will captivate and educate generations of history buffs for years to come.

For those entering or considering the field of cartography and GIS, the future seems brighter and broader than ever before. My experience has been that most people find custom maps greatly enhance their products. The internet is increasingly awash with new data that individuals, companies, non-profits, and governments need to process and visualize to be understood. Even if cartography is not your primary role, adding attractive, accurate, and informative maps can be greatly beneficial to communicating the message of whatever organization you are working for. Good luck mapping! 

What’s New in Geographic Imager 6.5

We are very excited to announce the release of Geographic Imager 6.5, our latest version of the Geographic Imager extension for Adobe Photoshop. 

With Geographic Imager 6.5, we are bringing forward full compatibility with Adobe Photoshop 2022 (23.0.x), Windows 11 and macOS12, support for vector GeoPackages, improvements to the Terrain Shader tool, and several bug fixes.

Here’s what you can expect with the latest Geographic Imager 6.5 release:

Compatibility with Adobe Photoshop 2022 (23.0.x), Windows 11, and macOS 12

We want Geographic Imager users to experience truly seamless integration with the Adobe Photoshop workspace. We are pleased to announce that Geographic Imager 6.5 is now fully compatible with Adobe Photoshop 2022 (23.0.x).

Geographic Imager 6.5 is also fully compatible with the newly released Windows 11, as well as macOS 12 Monterey.

Terrain Shader Improvements

The Terrain Shader tool allows users to create dramatic shaded relief visualizations with elevation data. Combining hillshaded elevation datasets with imagery overlays can create striking topographic representations. With this latest release of Geographic Imager, we are improving the Terrain shader tool to include a document blending mode option. When the “Apply Overlay Image” option is now selected as a colourization schema, users can select from a range of native Photoshop blending modes that improve how imagery layers are overlayed with elevation data.

Import and Export Vector GeoPackages

Several users have requested the ability to import and export vector GeoPackage data. We are happy to announce the full support of vector GeoPackages is now offered with Geographic Imager 6.5. Vector GeoPackages are based on SQLite databases and offer an open-source, compact, lightweight, and flexible data format for easy and efficient storage or geoprocessing of spatial data.

Geographic Imager 6.5 is immediately available today, free of charge to all current Geographic Imager users with active maintenance subscriptions and as an upgrade for non-maintenance users.

Day 30 – Reflecting on the #30DayMapChallenge

What is the #30DayMapChallenge?

Since 2019, each November has been host to the annual #30DayMapChallenge. The challenge was started by Topi Tjukanov as a way to get the cartography and GIS communities to come together and share maps, exchange ideas, and start conversations about mapping and spatial data. Since then, this friendly competition has grown, with thousands of maps being made and shared by map-makers from all over the world, and from a wide range of experience levels. 

Kate B created this map entirely out of lego pieces (1500 total!) She shared this map on Day 15 – “Map made without using a computer”. See if you can spot the different shapes, symbols, and even video game characters that are hidden in the ocean sections of the piece.

The rules are simple: A specific theme is assigned to each day of November and the goal is to create a map each day that matches that day’s specific theme. Most important of all, this is a friendly challenge! The idea is to have fun, share maps with the carto-community, and hopefully learn something in the process! Here at Avenza, the challenge meant an opportunity to get together as a team and challenge ourselves to try something new. We have map-makers from all experience levels try their hand at making some maps, and we shared our favorites on the Avenza Twitter feed.

Erik shared this beautiful map of Mountains and parks he plans to visit on an upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies. He shared this map for Day 21 – “Elevation”

Today marks Day 30, and the end of this year’s challenge. The theme for today is “Metamapping”, with the objective being to reflect on the overall experience and discuss what we mapped, what we enjoyed, and most importantly, what we learned. We’ve collected some thoughts from a few Avenza Team members who participated by asking them a simple question: “What did the #30DayMapChallenge mean to you?”


“An opportunity to get creative” – Rebecca B

I love making maps, and when the #30DayMapChallenge came around this year. I knew I had to participate in some way. I’ve spent a lot of time making maps with Avenza software, and some of my favorites were turned into tutorial articles on the Avenza Resources blog. You can see a handful of them here and here

My first challenge was to create a map that fit the “red” theme. Of the three color-based themes in this year’s challenge, red spoke to me the most. Perhaps it’s because it’s a color not prevalent in nature (blue and green make me think of water and vegetation), meaning I could create something that stands out a bit more. For me at least, red immediately makes me think of apples, so I set out to create a map showing apple production worldwide. As is so common with map-making projects, oftentimes the hardest part is finding good-quality data. Luckily for me, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization houses some fantastic datasets on global food production. Using the Join Table tool in MAPublisher, I could link this tabular data to a polygon layer of countries I had imported into Adobe Illustrator. Finally, I used MAP Themes to create an appropriate red stylesheet to visualize my data, and just like that, I was done! 

Rebecca B created this fantastic map showing global apple production for Day 6 – “Red”

Next up, I took a shot at making a historical-themed map for Day 24 of the challenge. Now as a self-proclaimed history buff, I’ll never turn down an opportunity to do some research on the ancient world. For this theme, I chose to map out the mythical route of Jason and the Argonauts. If you’re from Toronto and you think “Argos” you probably think about the football team, but these are the original Argos. I actually started this map long ago for another project, but the #30DayMapChallenge got me inspired to revisit it and see it to completion. The route was all hand-drawn in Adobe Illustrator after meticulously cataloging and plotting the different locations in the legend. I was able to easily create map labels using MAPublisher LabelPro and overlaid the map layers onto a Natural Earth shaded relief base layer. While the map is physically the biggest part of the artboard, the story is what really drove me to create the map.

Looking back on this challenge, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get back into map-making. The #30DayMapChallenge is a great outlet to reignite that spark of love for cartography.

Rebecca B manually digitized the path of Jason and the Argonauts for her Day 24 – “Historical” map


“A chance to learn a new skill” – Chelsey

Not all of us at Avenza are experienced map-makers! In fact, even though I often use maps in my everyday life, I haven’t had many opportunities to make a map myself. For me, the #30DayMapChallenge was an opportunity to learn, try new things, and (hopefully) create my first map!

I was fortunate that the Avenza team included several experienced map-makers who were willing to sit down with me and teach me the basics of cartography. After a short crash course on “projections”, “coordinate systems” and the “fundamentals of working with spatial data”, I felt confident I could take my first steps in the world of cartography. Using some of the great tutorial workflows in the Avenza support center, I was able to get my first map dataset imported with MAPublisher. With a bit of help from my Avenza teammates, I was able to get a population dataset showing population counts for Tasmania. Something I quickly learned is that population data needs to be adjusted to account for variation in the size of each area of measure. I used the attribute expressions tutorial to create an expression that calculated the population density for each region rather than the raw population value. Finally, apply a MAP Theme to give the map some color, and add a few remaining stylistic elements with the native Adobe tools, and voila! My very first map is complete!

For me, the #30dayMapChallenge offered me a chance to learn some great new tools, and take a crack at making my very first map. I learned that making maps doesn’t have to be hard, and in fact can be quite fun! Being able to go from never made a map to “I made a real map!” in a matter of hours was incredible, and I can’t wait to try out these newfound skills on some other map projects!

Chelsey got a crash course in beginner map-making with MAPublisher, allowing her to create this neat map of population density in Tasmania for Day 12 – Population


“Not all maps have to be serious” – Spencer

This year was my second time participating in the #30DayMapChallenge and once again, it was incredible to see the map-making community come together to share some really cool maps. I enjoy these types of challenges because they encourage new and experienced map-makers alike to try out new tools, learn some new techniques, and work on maps in a friendly, non-intimidating environment. For me at least, it was an opportunity to just have fun and try out some maps that were less serious in nature. Too often maps are only the result of intensive analytical processes or a product of complex data visualization. While these types of rigid workflows are still quite interesting to work on, it’s also good to step back and just have fun with the process instead of focusing on every detail in the workflow. For Day 4 – “Hexagons”, I did just that and put together a simple map documenting the “Sharknado Risk” across the US. I even wrote a tutorial blog about how I did it!

Spencer made this not-so-serious map of Sharknado risk by creating a custom Bivariate-risk index in MAPublisher. He shared this map for Day 4 – “Hexagons”

What I enjoy most about open-ended map challenges like #30DayMapChallenge is that they allow one to explore topics or datasets that they might not use in their normal day-to-day work. As many cartography and GIS folks know, the most challenging part of ‘making a map” often comes from deciding on a theme, and finding good data. This is especially true when you are restricted to a very specific mapping result or must adhere to strict design considerations. The #30DayMapChallenge removes some of these obstacles and provides an environment that encourages creativity and gets back to the real reason so many of us got into the industry – because we enjoy making maps.


Some of the Map created by the Avenza Team for #30DayMapChallenge

Mapping Class: Create Distance Marker Symbols in MAPublisher using Scripts, with Steve Spindler

Welcome back to this month’s edition of Mapping Class. The Mapping Class tutorial series curates video tutorials and workflows created by experienced cartographers and Avenza software users. With us today is Steve Spindler, a MAPublisher expert, and professional cartographer. Steve is back with a quick demo showing how he uses MAPublisher path utility tools and a custom Adobe script produced by Nathaniel Kelso to create unique mile marker symbols. The Avenza team has produced video notes adapted from the original article found on Steve’s personal blog.


Create Distance Marker Symbols in MAPublisher using Scripts
by Steve Spindler (Notes adapted from the original)

MAPublisher used within Adobe Illustrator enables us to create mile markers or other points along a line.  I’m using this tool while working on the Genesee Valley Greenway map, and this video walks through the process.

Not shown in the video is how I set the direction of the line.  Reversing the line direction is done using the MAPublisher Flip Lines tool. I just didn’t need to do this.

To set the mile marker preferences, we can use the Add Path Intervals in the Path Utilities tool. 

Path Utility - Line Markers

This is pretty good, but if you want to customize the circle or square, it helps to convert the polygon objects into symbols.

Find and Replace Symbols Script

The script is called “Find and Replace Graphics” and can be found on Nathaniel Kelso’s website here. Save the script into the appropriate Adobe Illustrator Scripts folder. If you prefer, you can save the script elsewhere and navigate to the script manually using “File>Script>Other Script…”

Note: Save the script with the “.js” extension

To use it, I select all of the current objects that I want to replace and make sure they are on the same layer. I lock other layers. Then I add place a symbol on the same layer (ensure the symbol you want to use is the top-most object in the layer).

With the objects selected, run the script here.

use script

All of the selected objects will be changed to the top-most object, which I set to be a symbol.

Select only the polygons, not the text.  Otherwise, you will get this error.


About the Author

Steve Spindler has been designing compelling cartographic pieces for over 20 years. His company, Steve Spindler Cartography, has developed map products for governments, city planning organizations, and non-profits from across the country. He also manages, a public engagement tool that allows city planners to connect and receive input from their community using maps. To learn more about Steve Spindler’s spectacular cartography work, visit his personal website. To view Steve’s other mapping demonstrations, visit

#30DayMapChallenge: Day 12 – Population

Beginner Map-making for the #30DayMapChallenge

For Day 12 of the #30DayMapChallenge, the challenge topic is population. Our Teammate Chelsey from Marketing, a true beginner when it comes to map-making, steps up to the plate. With lots of help from cartography and gis experts, her focus was on finding simple population data and doing basic data manipulations to learn how to use Avenza MAPublisher.

Finding Data

This was one of the most difficult parts for a completely new map maker. Having absolutely no idea where to start Chelsey turned to her team. Here are a few of the tips she learned on how to source data.

  • Have an idea
    • Chelsey loves Australia and has always wanted to visit.
  • Google is your best friend
    • We started searching for data by searching broad terms “Population Data Australia”.
    • Open Street Maps
  • Sourcing Census Data is a good place to start
    • This data is often easier to access and is verified.
  • Break the data down
    • Data can be overwhelming, we decided to focus on Tasmania, a province of Australia.
  • Play around with data
    • Working with digital data is non destructive and doesn’t take too long. Don’t be afriad to try different data sets or play around with things.


Having access to incredible map-making software like MAPublisher and Geographic Imager really made this next part simple.

With MAPublisher you’re able to open and manipulate spatially referenced data… RIGHT IN ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR! Chelsey was impressed with how easy it really was to open the data sets, set projections, and even create a legend in less than five clicks!

“It’s easy to get intimidated by all the rows and rows of data. MAPublisher put it all in the Adobe environment I’m already familier with, that helped make it all easier to understand and work with.”

Chelsey Harasym – Avenza Marketing

Fun Fact: Not all maps or infographics need to be serious, check out this great map about Sharknados!

Map Insets

Sometimes, like in our example shown above, you really need to zoom in to see the detail of a map. This is often down using Map Insets. Chelsey used a map inset to showcase the more populated areas of Tasmania. If you’re interested in learning how to create map insets with MAPublisher, learn how here.

Ready to Try?

Download your own free trial of either MAPublisher (Adobe Illustrator) or Geographic Imager (Adobe Photoshop) today to start making your very own beginner maps!

Blog Archive

May 2022 (1)
February 2022 (1)
January 2022 (2)
December 2021 (3)
November 2021 (5)
October 2021 (1)
September 2021 (3)
August 2021 (2)
July 2021 (1)
June 2021 (2)
May 2021 (2)
April 2021 (3)
March 2021 (3)
February 2021 (2)
January 2021 (1)
November 2020 (1)
October 2020 (1)
June 2020 (2)
May 2020 (1)
April 2020 (3)
March 2020 (2)
December 2019 (1)
November 2019 (2)
September 2019 (1)
August 2019 (1)
July 2019 (1)
June 2019 (3)
May 2019 (4)
April 2019 (2)
March 2019 (1)
February 2019 (2)
January 2019 (3)
December 2018 (2)
November 2018 (1)
October 2018 (1)
September 2018 (2)
August 2018 (4)
July 2018 (2)
June 2018 (1)
July 2018 (1)
June 2018 (4)
May 2018 (1)
April 2018 (2)
March 2018 (5)
February 2018 (1)
January 2018 (1)
November 2017 (1)
October 2017 (2)
August 2017 (2)
July 2017 (1)
March 2017 (1)
February 2017 (2)
January 2017 (2)
November 2016 (1)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
October 2016 (2)
May 2016 (1)
April 2016 (2)
December 2015 (2)
November 2015 (1)
June 2015 (1)
May 2015 (1)
April 2015 (2)
December 2014 (4)
October 2014 (2)
May 2014 (4)
February 2014 (1)
October 2013 (3)
April 2013 (1)
January 2013 (2)
October 2012 (1)
August 2012 (1)
July 2012 (3)
May 2012 (2)
January 2012 (2)
August 2011 (1)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (2)
May 2011 (2)
March 2011 (1)
February 2011 (1)
January 2011 (5)
December 2010 (1)
November 2010 (1)
December 2010 (1)
November 2010 (1)
October 2010 (1)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (2)
June 2010 (3)
May 2010 (2)
April 2010 (2)
March 2010 (2)