Florence: a Web-based Grammar of Graphics for Making Maps and Learning Cartography

  • Ate Poorthuis KU Leuven https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3808-7493
  • Lucas van der Zee KU Leuven
  • Grace Guo Georgia Tech
  • Jo Hsi Keong Singapore University of Technology and Design
  • Bianchi Dy Singapore University of Technology and Design


Online, web-based cartography workflows use a dizzying variety of software suites, libraries, and programming languages. This proliferation of mapmaking technologies, often developed from a software engineering rather than a cartographic foundation, creates a series of challenges for cartography education, research, and practice.

To address these challenges, we introduce a JavaScript-based open-source framework for web-based cartography and data visualization. It is built on top of existing open web standards that are already in intensive use for online mapmaking today, but provides a framework that is firmly based on cartographic and visualization theory rather than software engineering concepts. Specifically, we adopt concepts from Bertin’s Semiology of Graphics and Wilkinson’s Grammar of Graphics to create a language with a limited number of core concepts and verbs that are combined in a declarative style of “writing” visualizations. In this paper, we posit a series of design guidelines that have informed our approach, and discuss how we translate these tenets into a software implementation and framework with specific use cases and examples. We frame the development of the software and the discussion specifically in the context of the use of such tools in cartography education.

With this framework, we hope to provide an example of a software for web-based data visualization that is in sync with cartographic theories and objectives. Such approaches allow for potentially greater cartographic flexibility and creativity, as well as easier adoption in cartography courses.

How to Cite
Poorthuis, A., van der Zee, L., Guo, G., Keong, J. H., & Dy, B. (2020). Florence: a Web-based Grammar of Graphics for Making Maps and Learning Cartography. Cartographic Perspectives, (96), 32–50. https://doi.org/10.14714/CP96.1645
Peer-Reviewed Articles