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#1
benbakelaar

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The last thread (titled "MTA NYC Subway Transit map") generated 19 comments, and it seemed people got enthusiastic about map criticism. So here is the second thread. I was trying to think along the lines of maps that many people use, maybe not every day, but often enough. I had previously done research on megachurches, and as anyone familiar with the topic will know, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, TX meets at the former Compaq Center (also formerly home to a certain sports team). I'm pulling this number off the top of my head, but they must certainly see at least 20,000 every week, and I'm sure there is a large percentage of "new visitors" each time. With that in mind, here is the map they have buried on their site. Your comments?

http://www.lakewood....tralScheduleMap

Attached File  16091.jpg   66.45KB   289 downloads

#2
mike

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1. I'm not a huge fan of having maps with transparent gradation boundary (feathering). I would prefer something with absolute borders. possibly a key map too, as i'm unfamiliar with this area.

2. The map is very heavy with the way the interstates are represented. I think making them a little thinner will still be effective. Why is there a color gradiant in the 59 highway? The highway that makes a complete circle around this area seems to look unlabeled. Is this the Sam Houston Highway? (refer to my point 4)

3. The text of the church names is pretty much unreadable. Space is tight, but using a thinner styled font and a slightly larger font size may help here. Perhaps reposition the labels as well.

4. The tollway names are placed in almost ambiguous positions. It's hard to tell which tollway the label is refering too.

5. I do like the background though, shows a good hierarchy between the highways and regular streets. Again, i'm not too crazy about the gradation.

6. For the most part, the highway signs are positioned ok. I would probably center some of them along specific routes. the 610 sign in the north position should probably be moved. I can't tell if it connects to the left of the sign or not (i assume it is, but it should be explicit to the map reader).

7. North arrow is cool looking, causes a little composition imbalance in the map b/c it leads my eye away from the actual map. perhaps a simpler north arrow will suffice.

#3
Matthew Hampton

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I would concur with the previous comments, and add that I think you could generalize (smooth) the freeway lines bit more. At this scale, the change of a few degrees for the highway alignment across the length of a line is going to be a bit more pleasing to the eye.

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#4
franciscocartographer

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... also a scale bar is missing.
--------------------------------------
Francisco Jimenez, GISP
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My webpage

#5
Dennis McClendon

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I'm puzzled by the intended audience for the map. The church's original location is about 2 km from the nearest freeway, but the new location is visible from the freeway. This map doesn't allow you to easily navigate to either one. Without names, the arterials seem rather useless to me, and the freeways are way too detailed.

My suspicion is that someone just bought a clipart map of Houston and then dropped layers until it was readable on the website.

I don't necessarily think the map requires a scale, but having such a prominent north arrow seems unnecessary.
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#6
merft

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I guess for some of the items that have been mentioned they don't bother me (missing scale bar, no neatline, gradients, etc) as much as the overall map. This is a prime example of why graphic designers are not cartographers. From a pure graphic design standpoint, its an okay map. It uses graphic design elements that are a bit outdated but okay.

My problem is that this map fails to communicate to the map reader. What is this map trying to communicate? The highway system? Sure seems like it to me. I had to forceably look for the church location.

One of the first things I teach new employees is my "Two Second Rule". With the vast majority of thematic maps there is one "theme" to the map. In this case, the location of the church. That "theme" should be the first thing the map user is drawn to. My Two Second Rule is without a legend or title can the map user determine what the theme of the map is or infer what the map is trying to communicate. My Two Second Rule doesn't always work but for most maps it does.

For me, maps are not pretty pictures. Maps tell a story. There should be various levels of supporting information (cast) to that story, but none of the support cast should overshadow the purpose, main character (theme), of the map. Making maps pretty or eye-pleasing is used to drawn the map user in to unfurl the mulitude of information stored. This maps supporting cast is more important that the main character.

-Tom

#7
benbakelaar

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Great comments Tom, don't know where else I would have picked up the "two second rule", but I think that will stick with me for the rest of my cartography days :)

Also appreciate the comment regarding the difference between graphic designers and cartographers...

#8
jerseysbest

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Here's a larger version (JPG from PDF) http://eden.rutgers....er/lakewood.jpg

#9
Claude

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Just curious if MERFT can elaborate on what graphic design elements are outdated-the gradient edge?

Also, I think this is a prime opportunity for a Heaven/Hell north arrow
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#10
merft

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Just curious if MERFT can elaborate on what graphic design elements are outdated-the gradient edge?

Also, I think this is a prime opportunity for a Heaven/Hell north arrow

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


The map is very 90s in feel to me. High levels of contrast between subordinate features, not focusing on the issue. Kind of like the society in the 80/90s. Poor color and font selection. Gradients in the line work. Transparency instead of a neatline. Compass rose?

The overall impression I get is that the map creator had an epileptic seizure with the Photoshop effects palette open. I sometimes miss the days when adding these effects was a complex process (i.e., clipping paths), so it limited their use.

Though I rarely integrate current trends in graphic design into my map design, I like to see how things are changing in the industry. One of my favorite graphic design magazines is Communication Arts. A good way to watch what is happening in the industry.

I have always preferred a clean, heirarchical structure to my maps. Stripping away the unnecessary glitz. I want to draw the reader in quickly. Not try to cover ineptitude with useless graphic design elements that confuse the map reader.

Cartographers are communicators first. Our job is to visually communicate spatial relationships. Graphic embellishment should serve this purpose not conflict with it. If you don't know how to implement graphic design elements, don't. Just as the english language changes over time, the way we communicate graphically changes over time and we must be aware of when those changes occur. Drop shadows, emboss effects, gradients, color choices, fonts, etc., are the slang/dialect of our language and are temporally unstable. To create a map that communicates to all levels of map user you need to strip those elements to their core.

-Tom

#11
ELeFevre

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Without a neatline/border the map looks more like a first draft rather than a finished product. I also concur with the other comments. The interstates are too heavy and could use a serious reduction in size. There is very little breathing room (white space) within the map....and the transparency in the background only enhances the "clausterphobic" look. A title would be helpful as well...

Merft,
You are right...this is a case of someone going overboard with the effects and everything else. It's easy to do if your not paying attention and don't have someone saying in ear, "try taking down the interstates, and ditch the effects." I also agree that we need to use caution with graphical elements....because they do become outdated in short time and are easy to overuse. A little bit does go along way. IMO every GIS/Cartography program should require all students to take a few intro art/design courses. The software can come later on...



#12
Matthew Hampton

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I completely agree with Merft with respect to communication and maps, however sometimes maps are designed to tell a story or evoke a response and as such using "cartoslang" (drop shadows, embossing, Papyrus font etc.) can serve that purpose. You just have to have a specific reason and justification for using it.

Our job is to visually communicate spatial relationships.

When those spatial relationships are very complex it is our job to simplfy, generalize and try and focus the map viewer on elements of the map that communicate what we intend.

To create a map that communicates to all levels of map user you need to strip those elements to their core.

I would add that after you strip things to the core you can effectively build back up the salient aspects of the cartography. If bumping something up from a complex base with a drop shadow enforces the hierarchy so be it (even if it is cliche). I think there is a fine line that unfortunately gets crossed all too often by those excited by the opportunity and nascent ability of digital design and map creation. It's part of the learning process.

I don't know if you ever read The Onion, but one of my favorite articles deals with Photoshop filters (and their abuse).

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#13
Hans van der Maarel

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I don't know if you ever read The Onion, but one of my favorite articles deals with Photoshop filters (and their abuse).


Love that one too :)

"Because we can!" isn't always a valid excuse :P

To comment on the map itself, I don't like the huge lines for the highways. Something a bit more subtle would work just as well. I agree that the background gradient serves no purpose at all either and the gradient on US59 has me baffled. Why is it there?
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