The Nature of Creativity in Cartographic Design with Special Reference to the Barbara Petchenik Map Design Competition

Henry W. Castner


Every other year, the International Cartographic Association sponsors an international map design competition, for children 15 years old or younger, that coincides with its biennial congress. The competition promotes the creative representation of the world. The theme of the latest competition was “A World Map.” The breadth and ambiguity of this theme does not convey information about its conceptual basis or the grounds upon which entries might be judged. In promotional material, words like “creativity” often appear but it is unclear what is meant in this cartographic context. In comparing what cartographers and art educators say about creativity, it is clear that there are perceptual skills and a body of  principles of graphic design which cartographers can systematically apply to enhance creative map design particularly when specific problems are being addressed. This paper provides some background on these and other related questions and suggests ways that the Map Design Competition might provide more useful guidance for competitors and judges alike.


spatial reference; creativity; competition; Barbara Bartz Petchenik

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