Tag: Cartographic Design

Esri Press presents Designed Maps: A sourcebook for GIS users by Cynthia Brewer

By Michael Law, Esri Product Engineer

Link to Esri Press webpage for Design Maps

Cynthia Brewer’s new book titled Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users is a companion piece designed to compliment the highly successful Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users published by Esri Press in 2005. The goal of the book is to offer a graphics-intensive presentation of published maps, providing cartographic details that will prompt GIS users to think about their own maps and how to improve them. Continue reading

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Guidelines for minimum size for text and symbols on maps

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

There are some general guidelines you can follow regarding the size of text and symbols on a map.  The key is legibility – that is, ability to be seen AND recognized.  Legibility can be affected by:

  • Size of symbols and type
  • Contrasting colors and shapes
  • Familiarity
  • Perfect vision and perfect viewing conditions Continue reading
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Choosing color ramps and displaying for hillshade rasters

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer


Using ArcMap to symbolize a hillshade raster layer (the output of the Spatial or 3D Analyst’s Hillshade tool) is pretty straightforward, and the default symbology (black to white ramp) doesn’t look too bad. In fact, if your hillshade layer is the only layer in your map, and if you don’t mind not seeing some of the details that have been visually absorbed into the darker tones, the default symbology is okay. To be fair, the default symbology for hillshades is useful for much more than just terrain depictions, so it’s good to know what might be helpful when depicting terrain with a hillshade. The image to the left is an example of a hillshade using the default color ramp. Continue reading

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Tips for exporting to Adobe Illustrator format (AI) so CYMK colors are maintained

By Michael Law, Esri Product Engineer

Color Selector showing the menu that is shown be black triangle button.

For many GIS users and cartographers, the use of external graphics software is a common step in his or her workflow and production of print quality maps. One of ArcMap’s more popular export formats is the Adobe Illustrator (AI) export because of its wide compatibility with a number of graphics software packages. This export format was first made available in ArcGIS 8.1 Service Pack 1 and has been popular ever since. The ArcMap AI exporter has been fully tested to work in Adobe Illustrator CS and CS2. It is currently being tested in CS3 with good initial results. Continue reading

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Verbal scales

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

Verbal Scales - Thumbnail

A verbal scale is also referred to as a “word statement” or a “scale expression”, and in the ArcGIS software, it is one of the options for inserting “scale text”. It is offered in the form of a relationship between map distance and ground distance stated in standard units that we understand for both sides of the relation. For example, if we say that a map that is “one inch to the mile”, we understand (at least in the U.S.) the units on both sides of the relation. This is the same as a map that is 1:63,360, but for many map makers and map users, we will often translate this mentally into “one inch to the mile” because we can intuit that more easily (figure 1). Continue reading

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Representative fractions

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

A representative fraction (RF) is the ratio of distance on the map to distance on the ground. Representative fractions are expressed in the form of 1 followed by a : (colon) and then a number, where the one is the numerator in the fraction, the colon represents the division operation, and the other number is the denominator. Thus, a scale of 1:24,000 can be expressed mathematically as 1/24,000. In fact, on some maps, you will see the RF represented using a division sign. Continue reading

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Choosing the best way to indicate map scale

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

In a previous blog entry, I asked, “Do all maps need a scale bar and north arrow?” I answered, “No” and talked a little about direction indicators like north arrows, but I didn’t really go into any detail about scale bars. Here is a bit more on map scale indicators, like scale bars. Continue reading

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Symbolizing the results of a Hot Spot analysis

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

Example results of hot Spot Analysis tool

There are a number of spatial statistical analysis tools now available in ArcGIS. Some, like the Hot Spot Analysis tool produce specially structured results that can be misinterpreted or misrepresented if you approach symbolizing them in a generic way, such as using the Natural Breaks classification method. Specifically, the Hot Spot Analysis tool produces results that are in the form of Gi* Z Scores — values that indicate whether a feature is within a statistically significant hot or cold spot. While the version of this tool called Hot Spot Analysis with Rendering produces a layer that is symbolized correctly given the data it represents, you can fine tune this symbology if you know what how to avoid inadvertently misrepresenting the analysis results. If you’re working with point features, you can interpolate a raster surface from those points; you will also need to know how to symbolize the hot spot analysis raster surface properly. Here are some tips to guide you. Continue reading

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Choosing an appropriate cell size when interpolating raster data

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

Choosing a raster cell size is a parameter in many tools

“If I want to create a digital elevation model (DEM) by interpolating from a point shapefile (digital terrain model or DTM), how can I select the most correct cell size given the original separation of the point file?” We recently received this question via the Ask a Cartographer Web page, so we checked with a couple of the product engineers on our Spatial Analyst development team and found that we didn’t have a help topic addressing the subject. Moreover, the answer was not simple—it varied depending upon why the DEM was needed. Continue reading

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Gradient fills add cartographic allure

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer

World K-12 Education 1

Esri’s Graphics team needed some maps for a slide for one of this year’s Users Conference presentations to show where GIS was being used in K-12 programs in the U.S. and throughout the world. I was asked to spruce up the maps for the slide and was told these maps should be really simple because everyone in the audience would be looking for their country, or in the case of the U.S., their state or city, so no text would be needed, in fact just provide TIFF files of the maps.

I joined the K-12 data to the template data that ships with ArcGIS Desktop. You can usually find this in C:Program FilesArcGISbinTemplatesData, I just used the states, countries, and world30 datasets. I was given a point shapefile for the U.S. data. Continue reading

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