Introducing a Human Geography Basemap

Updated December 8, 2017:  The Esri Vector Basemaps were recently updated to a new version (v2). The best way to access them in ArcGIS Online is through the Esri owned Vector Basemaps group, which contains the latest set of web maps and tile layers. See What’s New in Esri Vector Basemaps (December 2017) for information related to this update.

Esri just released a new sample vector basemap that is built specifically to make maps of subjects related to human geography. Just as the Topographic Basemap supports so many wonderful maps that require topography on a colorful basemap, the Human Geography Basemap is likewise tailored to make maps of human geography better.

Human geography maps include thematic maps of statistical data, demographics, etc.

Originally the map was built to support our sample story map atlases. It has similarities to the Light Gray Canvas map (it could be mistaken for it at first), but there are some very specific differences in the way that it is constructed.

Think of the map as modular. It consists of 3 separate vector tile layers, designed to work together, but available separately if you want to use them in a different context.  All are grayscale.

The Label Layer

This is built as a reference layer (it sits on top of your work), and includes labels for administrative areas, cities, towns and neighborhoods,and street names at larger scales. All labels have pale gray haloes to help them stand out without overpowering the other information.

The Detail layer

This is also built as a reference layer, and includes all line and polygon features: larger water polygons, administrative boundaries, road and highways. All symbols are very dark, to allow for a significant amount of transparency, which you can apply yourself. Think of 60% as a good starting point, then adjust it to suit your particular map.

The Base layer

This is effectively a blank canvas, although the land areas are shown in a very pale gray to give it some substance.

The final structure of a typical map is this:

The combination of these three layers should provide the map with strong contextual detail, without upsetting the visual coherence of your information. As with all of our vector basemaps, the layers we provide are only a starting point. We would encourage you to customize them to suit your particular needs on a project.

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  1. kateleroux says:

    This looks great, and I look forward to creating something similar with our own data as we transition to vector tiles.

    One question: what logic are you using to determine which neighborhood names are displayed? Only a few neighborhoods are labeled for my city, Seattle, and they aren’t the largest, most populous, or most significant.

  2. dcoley says:

    Can I add this basemap as a WAB basemap gallery option?

  3. dcoley says:

    Sorry ignore my last, just save as a webmap in my content and pull in to the basemap gallery

  4. brettkraus_jllgis says:

    Any plans on incorporating this into the desktop platform?

  5. kate.leroux@seattle.gov_seattlecitygis says:

    How do you get your thematic layer in the middle like that? Now that I have created two operational vector tile layers (labels and features), I find I’m not able to drag the labels layer above the thematic layer (which is a vector feature service).

    Must my users convert their thematic layers to vector tiles in order to set up a map this way?

    • ajskinner2 says:

      Try moving the tile layers to the basemap (Click on the 3 dots under the layer name, then select ‘Move to Basemap’). Then apply ‘Set as Reference Layer’. If you are adding two reference layers, set the one you want on top first.

      • kate.leroux@seattle.gov_seattlecitygis says:

        That worked, thank you! I’m giving a presentation in a couple weeks on my experience creating a vector tile basemap and I’m glad to have that detail to share.