A design pattern approach for conceptualizing the cartographic design process is presented. A design pattern presents a solution to a problem by describing solutions for the commonalities in problems to be solved. The commonalities of the cartographic design process are identified and MapDesign is described, a design pattern for generating a set of maps from big geospatial data. The MapDesign pattern allows increased map throughput through automation and distributed processing, which frees up time for cartographers and geographic information scientists to make sense of big geospatial data and to select and refine map designs. The description of the MapDesign pattern can aid software developers in understanding how to build tools that allow automation and distributed processing in parts of the map design process for visualizing big geospatial data. Conversely, the visual nature of design patterns can assist cartographers with understanding how software components interact to produce maps.