cartographer sarah bell


A presentation of various maps, designs, and interests.

About me

A little background of me.

I am professional cartographer and data visualization specialist working for a large company. I also create my own maps and mapping projects, which include print/static, handmade, and web. The path that has brought me where I am today as a mapper began as when I was earning my degree in anthropology, which led to my National Park Service ranger at the North Cascades National Park in Washington state, the place I call home. Every park scientist was using GIS to study the Park, leading to my immediate subsequent enrollment in the UW-Madison’s GIS certificate program, where I was naturally drawn to the heavy cartography focus of UW’s geography department. Soon I was working as a cartographer for the National Park Service, followed by employment for a Washington-based cartography firm. A desire to combine cartography with my human rights education that I gained as a cultural anthropology student prompted me to pursue my M.S. in Geography degree where I studied the socio-spatial impact and application of neoliberal education reform. During this time, I worked as a data visualization specialist at the Resilience Institute in Bellingham, Washington.

Mapping Interests


Dynamic mapping and data visualization


Static mapping and data visualization

Hand drawn

She draws, but will the world ever see it?

Latest blog post

Occasionally I blog. This section will feature a very short version of the latest post. The rest can be found here.

Flow Mapping to the HTML5 Canvas

This post presents our Canvas-Flowmap-Layer, an extension of the ArcGIS API for JavaScript (Esri JSAPI) for the purpose of mapping the flow of objects from an origin point to a destination point by using a Bezier curve. Collaboration with friend and Esri colleague, Jacob Wasilkowski, was precisely the push I needed to finally (re)begin releasing some of my personal (non-work-related) mapping and dataviz projects into the wild. It is imperative to note that much of the responsibility for this repo rests on Jacob’s shoulders, even though it is under my name.

Flow maps, academically speaking.

In Bernhard Jenny et al.’s recent article Design principles for origin-destination flow maps (2016) flow maps are defined as maps that “visualize movement using a static image and demonstrate not only which places have been affected by movement but also the direction and volume of movement” (p 1). Jenny et al.’s article points out the lack of empirical user studies for flow map design, stating that “Design principles for flow maps are largely based on expert intuition and aesthetic considerations” (p. 1). I am the type of cartographer who finds extreme liberation in these two aforementioned points, which I will restate below:

The lack of empirically based cartographic design principles results in the freedom of relying on intuition and aesthetics.

So for all the mappers out there reading this, I hope you find extreme freedom in knowing that this Canvas-Flowmap-Layer is only one of many ways to map the journey of phenomenon from one spot on Earth to another. It is one method that we are quite comfortable in presenting, and have successfully implemented versions of the Canvas-Flowmap-Layer in a few real world scenarios.

Demos & Code

You’ll find out a lot more about how the Canvas-Flowmap-Layer was constructed by diving into the code, and checking out the comparison and main demos.