Cynthia Brewer

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Cynthia Brewer
Born1960 (age 63–64)
Alma materUniversity of Guelph (BA)
Michigan State University (MA, PhD)
Known forColorBrewer
Scientific career
InstitutionsPennsylvania State University
ThesisPrediction of Surround-Induced Changes in Map Color Appearance

Cynthia Ann Brewer (born 1960) is an American cartographer, author, and professor of geography at Pennsylvania State University. Brewer's specialty relates to visibility and color theory in cartography and, in 2023, she was awarded the International Cartographic Society's highest honor, the Carl Mannerfelt Gold Medal, for her distinguished contribution to the field.

Her web, print, and colorblind-friendly sets of colors, known as the Brewer palettes, have been used by numerous projects.[1][2] She is the creator of the online color palette tool ColorBrewer.[3]

Brewer has worked as a map and atlas design consultant for the U.S. Census Bureau, National Cancer Institute, National Center for Health Statistics, and National Park Service. She teaches courses in introductory cartography and map design.[4] She also works on topographic map design, multi-scale mapping, generalization, and atlas mapping. She has been influential as a theorist for map representations and GIS professionals.


She graduated from McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) in 1979 and the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) in 1983.[5] She did her master's degree in geography with emphasis in cartography at Michigan State University, 1983 to 1986, presenting a thesis titled The Development of Process-Printed Munsell Charts for Selecting Map Colors. After a year at University of California at Santa Barbara, she obtained her doctorate from Michigan State University in 1991. Her dissertation was Prediction of Surround-Induced Changes in Map Color Appearance.[6]

Academic career[edit]

She was visiting lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Department of Geography during the year 1986/87. On completing her doctorate she was assistant professor, for three years (1991 to 1994) at San Diego State University. She joined the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Geography in 1994 and has been professor since 2007 and was head of the department from 2014 to 2021.

She has been a faculty member of the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science (CEGIS), U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior, since 2008.[6]


ColorBrewer screenshot

ColorBrewer is an online tool for selecting thematic map color schemes based on Brewer's palettes.[7] It was developed in 2002.



  • Brewer, Cynthia A. (2005), Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users, Esri Press, p. 220, ISBN 978-1589480896
  • Brewer, Cynthia A. (2008), Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users, Esri Press, p. 184, ISBN 978-1589481602
  • Brewer, Cynthia A. (2015), Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users, 2nd Edition, Esri Press, p. 250, ISBN 978-1589484405


Awards and honors[edit]

Osborn Maitland Miller Medal

See also[edit]

  • Anne Kelly Knowles – American geographer
  • Chartjunk – Term for unnecessary visual elements in charts
  • Duane Marble – American geographer
  • Edward Tufte – American statistician
  • George F. Jenks – American geographer and cartographer
  • GIS – System to capture, manage and present geographic data
  • Mark Monmonier – American historian of cartography
  • Scientific visualization – Interdisciplinary branch of science concerned with presenting scientific data visually
  • Waldo Tobler – American geographer


  1. ^ Stephen D. Gardner, 2005, Evaluation of the ColorBrewer Color Schemes for Accommodation of Map Readers with Impaired Color Vision Archived 2018-07-29 at the Wayback Machine (6.1MB PDF)
  2. ^ Zaccardi, Emily. "Down from the Shelf: Accommodating Color Palettes for All". Stories. American Association of Geographers. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  3. ^ "ColorBrewer 2.0". Archived from the original on June 30, 2022. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  4. ^ Brewer, Cynthia (30 July 2005). Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Esri Press. ASIN 1589480899.
  5. ^ Roth, Robert E. (2010). "Interview with a Celebrity Cartographer: Cindy Brewer". Cartographic Perspectives. 66: 91–101. doi:10.14714/CP66.104. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  6. ^ a b "Brewer, Cynthia | Penn State Department of Geography". Penn State. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  7. ^ Miller, Greg. "The Cartographer Who's Transforming Map Design". Wired. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  8. ^ "Cynthia Brewer is awarded the Carl Mannerfelt Gold Medal". International Cartographic Association. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  9. ^ "RECIPIENTS". O.M. MILLER CARTOGRAPHIC MEDAL. American Geographical Society. Retrieved 2 February 2024.

External links[edit]