At university, I took a hard-core cartography class at one point. I remember manually (pencil, ruler and eraser) performing a Douglas-Poiker line generalization and using Lettraset, but I also took away a healthy respect for map design and elegance in conveying complex information.
I love reading books like the ones by Cynthia Brewer and John Krygier on Fantom Planet’s list, and BjÃ¸rn Sandvik’s Thematic Mapping Blog fascinates me in the same way. I always considered Google Earth to be a bit of a dead fish as far as cartographic elements go, but BjÃ¸rn’s work shows that some truly amazing representations are possible with a bit of work. If you haven’t checked this blog out, give it a read.