Who iM

Ian Muehlenhaus candid photo

Hi. I’m Ian. Nice to meet you!

Hi. I’m Ian Muehlenhaus (iM). If you are looking for Ian Oas (iO), I’m him too. Though, legally he no longer exists. In 2004 I lost a battle of wills with my wife and became Ian Muehlenhaus. (It wasn’t much of a battle… I folded in about two minutes.)

Somewhere between changing my name and now, I earned a Doctorate from the University of Minnesota. So I changed from Mr. Ian Oas to Mr. Ian Muehlenhaus to Dr. Ian Muehlenhaus. Regardless, I just go by Ian. (It’s the only part of my full name that sticks!)


I always wanted to be a writer. I just never envisioned it would be this… normal. (Yes, I once had delusions of grandeur about sitting in Parisian cafes writing poetry.)

Then one day I looked at my resume and… Holy Cow! I am a writer! Albeit one that locks himself in a basement as opposed to spending time in Paris.

I contributed ~25,000 words to this BESSIE winning K12 geography textbook.

I contributed ~25,000 words to this BESSIE winning K12 geography textbook.

Currently I am working with a colleague on an extremely cheap (~$5) ebook on map design for the masses. We call it Project Q, because it helps make it sound epic… Well, also because “Project X” was already taken by someone else. More info on this project is coming in Fall 2015.

You can view past things I have written HERE or check out my writing credentials HERE.


I love teaching and I’ve been told by former students that I’m really good at it. (Note: students are known to say nice things in the hopes of bumping up their grades! ;-)

I’m definitely adept at getting students stoked about topics that even I find boring. Wherever I teach, I receive positive teaching evaluations (average of 4.8/5.0 overall SEI score), regardless of course or university over the past 8 years). The places I have taught include:

by @ErinLHamilton

Image by @ErinLHamilton

  • The National Geographic Society
  • James Madison University
  • University of Minnesota
  • Macalester College
  • University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
  • Metropolitan State University
  • University of Wisconsin – River Falls

I am also a huge proponent of online education. I have recorded and posted many of my lectures and tutorials online for everyone to view.

View them here on my YouTube channel.


Some people are more terrified of public speaking than death. Not me! I love giving presentations! I have been invited to give professional talks on everything from:

  • nationalism in Central Europe (National Geographic Society in DC)
  • effective web map design (ICC in Dresden)
  • persuasive graphic design (UW-Madison and Oregon State)
  • how to develop and solve research problems (UW-River Falls)

So if you are looking for a dynamic, engaging, and wild speaker who is good at visualizing with his hands, please drop me a line!


I have spent a decade teaching and doing design. Though officially I am a cartographer (i.e., I make maps for a living), my research and all of my teaching is steeped in graphic design theory. I am not your typical GIS person.

Given the fact that no one reads them, I have been thinking a lot about how to better visualize information on syllabi.

Given the fact that no one reads them, I have been thinking a lot about how to better visualize syllabi.

Ten years ago I co-founded a small design business — Muehlenhaus Design Studios — that helped fund my pretzel habit in grad school. (It also allowed me to buy some cutting-edge, 2000s technology. Anyone remember the Microsoft Zune? Yes, you can laugh at that!)

Some of my clients include the: Bush FoundationNorthwest Area FoundationConcept Farm (NYC), and ethanol lobbyists (remember that craze)?! Additionally, I design maps and graphics for textbooks.

Recently I have become obsessed (in a good way, of course!) with HTML5 technologies and responsive web design.


My research specialty is persuasive design — particularly when it comes to mapmaking. Yes, that’s right: I study how to design maps that inform people in compelling ways, so that that users interpret the information you present as you want them to. Or in business speech: I have spent years researching how to design maps that convert!

A persuasive map I designed for some of my research.

A persuasive map I designed for some of my research.

Beyond maps, I’m trying to figure out the most effective way to visually frame arguments in other visual mediums — particularly websites. I am fascinated by what I like to call “visual rhetoric” — designing visuals in a manner that resonates with and disarms intended audiences so that they are compelled to see what you want them to. Basically, certain scholars in English study argumentative writing; I study argumentative visualization.  

Web CartographyI’m also very interested in web map design. I wrote a textbook called Web Cartography on the topic. It deals primarily with web map aesthetics rather than the technologies underpinning web maps. Web Cartography was a lot of fun to write and will appeal to web techies, layperson cartographers, and students of all ages that want to get into web mapping. If you are one of these, please feel free to contact me to learn more about it.

More recently, I’m exploring general map aesthetics using a combination of film theory and the literary theorist Kenneth Burke. Combining aspects of Burke’s theory with that of a graphic design theorist named Donis Dondis, I am attempting to develop a tool for redefining map genre and systematically analyzing map form. It is kind of nuts, but I like nutty projects!

Plus, it has been a great excuse to re-watch the Stanley Kubrick filmography! You can view a presentation on the results so far here:


My New Challenge

Cold weather be damned! We're excited to be moving back.

Cold weather be damned! We’re excited to be back in Wisconsin.

This summer my wife, Birgit, our two daughters, and I packed up the household, put it on a trailer, and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to start the next adventure in our lives. You can read more about it here.

As for life outside of work — you know, the things that actually matter — I really enjoy hanging out with my family. In my spare time I read novels, comics, play European-style board games, binge-watch television shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix, mess around with HTML/CSS/JS, and of course, write stuff.

Thanks for visiting! If you’ve read this far, you truly rock!

Though, I recommend next time you spend your time reading something a bit more stimulating, you know… like the New Yorker. ;-)