Making Masterful Maps: A Creative Career for Cartographers

This May will find thousands of newly minted graduates leaving the friendly confines of their home universities and setting foot out in the world on a grand new adventure. With dreams of making a splash in their chosen subjects, graduates will no doubt be seeking employment in some of the top fields of study.

For graduates seeking to marry a left-brain analytical mind with their right-brain creative mind, one field stands heads above the rest. That dream job is becoming a cartographer. You might not know it, but according to the U.S. News Rankings for Best Engineering jobs, a cartographer comes in at the coveted number one spot.

With most of the well-known cartographers being at the rise of their profession so long ago, (we’re looking at you, Leonardo da Vinci), graduates might quickly overlook cartography as a viable career option, but the reality is that the demand for quality cartographers is high. For someone able to handle the highly analytical side of analyzing data and making sense of trends and patterns, alongside the creative tasks of visualizing and innovative design, cartography is the perfect fit. And with a median salary of over $60,000 and a very low unemployment rate, cartography is not only an attractive career, but a lucrative option for any new graduate.

Cartography and Wine Mapping

Back when VinMaps Founder Suzi Perez went into the cartography field as a wine-mapping expert it was an unheard of profession. She had originally planned going into pre-med and was seriously interested in becoming a doctor. However through a series of lab classes she became fascinated with Physical Geography and how the Earth’s energy is transferred in so many ways.

Her analytical mind was fascinated with the explanations found in physical geography: How and why it rains over a mountain range, how the Grand Canyon was formed, why are there sea arches off the Oregon coast, what makes earthquakes happen…

One thing led to another and she ended up majoring in Geography.

Left-brain Analytical Meets Right-Brain Creative Mind

With knowledge and a degree in Geography from San Diego State University, Ms. Perez began to develop her skills as a cartographer. By applying the creative aspects of designing wine maps in balance with the technicalities of the geography, she discovered a perfect blend that would then become a new business. Back in 2000/2001 wine maps in the U.S. were a fairly new concept. There were skeptics and naysayers. However her determination and vision kept her on course to pursue a field that she was passionate about.

Today Ms. Perez has created over 37 wine maps ranging from France, Italy, Spain and Australia , to several American favorites, including Napa Valley and Sonoma County. New titles are always in development. Along with the growing list of wine map titles she is expanding into spirits maps (Kentucky Bourbon) and beer maps – stay tuned!

For new graduates going into the cartography field (or any field for that matter), Ms. Perez has this to say:

It was tough at times to stay grounded in the belief that this could really be a business, let alone a successful one. There are many times in business and in life when you have to stay the course and not let others derail you; skeptics and naysayers are a dime a dozen. Don’t listen to them! Listen to that voice inside of you that compels you to create. Move outside your comfort zone and go for it; step outside the comfort of the tribe if necessary.

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