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#1
Dave Baselt

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I hope you Cartotalk regulars don't mind a rank amateur asking for a little input.

I'm working on a guide to the old-growth redwood forest hikes of California. Along with photographs and descriptive text, the guide will include a 1:25000 scale map of each trail. To accommodate the maps and photos, the book will be 8.5 x 11 inches and full color.

This has turned out to be a big project, and the maps are the biggest part of it (if you ever visit the redwood forests and you see someone hiking around with a pole-mounted GPS antenna and 20 pounds of camera gear, it's probably me). Here's a sample map:

Posted Image

On my Windows machine, this image is roughly the size that the printed map will be (8 x 10.25 inches). The legend is not normally part of the map.

Personally, I often find it hard to read trail maps that use dashed lines for trails, so I'm flouting convention and using solid lines.

Often on these trails you can hike for hours without seeing any signs to indicate which trail you're on. However, there are quite a few memorial groves that are marked with signs by the side of the trail. So as a navigation aid, I've marked the locations of the memorial groves with the initials of the person whose name appears on the sign.

As another navigation aid, I've marked the location of footbridges and steps. I often wonder if it's a good choice to show footbridges as little circles, but the normal bridge symbol just doesn't fit if, for example, there's a bridge in a hairpin turn or if there are several bridges in a row.

I've tried to keep the map from getting cluttered by keeping the bridge symbols, memorial grove markers, etc. small. The park headquarters area of this map is probably the busiest part of any map in the book.

Anyway, I'm curious what you think about this map, and whether there are better or more accepted conventions I could be using.

Finally, is there a company that sells high-quality topographic maps that only contain countour lines? I've been downloading USGS topos and erasing the extraneous material (grid lines, text, etc.) by hand, which is a huge amount of work. Worse, adjacent quads sometimes don't match up, with some quads having 40 foot countours and others 80. I've found a number of companies that sell topo maps in raster format, but they always seem to be unmodified scans from USGS topos. I've also found a few companies that sell topo maps in vector format, but they're rather crude-looking compared to the raster scans.

DB

#2
frax

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Dave, looks very nice, and I don't think I would have a big problem accepting the conventions and finding my way there. If I am doing longer hikes (when camping out) a big think that I find very useful is also a description of the trail, as well as distance (And difficulty) markers -- but you have the difficulty (in a way) in th elevation profile.

For the usability -- it may not be possible, but the best would probably be to prepare some alternatives and ask people (hikers in the field) to review them.

What do you use the camera gear for, by the way?
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#3
Hans van der Maarel

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Dave,

Excellent map. I would just try and make the text labels stand out a little bit more. The greens and blues are a bit hard to make out.

As for the contour lines, you could try and generate them yourself out of a DEM, although that's probabely a pretty daunting project on its own and probabely won't bring much of an improvement.
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#4
Martin Gamache

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Dave,

Nice map overall.

I think that your approach is probably time consumming but by the description of your workflow I assume you are not doing much GIS work which might speed up your workflow by allowing you to work with the attributes of your data rather than erasing. You can ususally get USGS DLGs for free from the various state agencies or from the USGS itself. I've only paid for DLGs once and that was for contour lines that were not available. As for generating contours from DEM I would not recommend this for a 1:25,000 map. All USGS DEMs except for SRTM or LIDAR derived DEMs are created from contours. The original contours are usually derived from photogrammetric interpretation. All things being equal and with a skilled operator those contours will be much more accurate than the ones you would create from a DEM. For smaller scale maps that would work fine, however in your case you should use what you have which is either 80ft or 40ft intervals.

If you are going to show magnetic declination in your compass rose, give it a numerical value, date for which it was calculated and how it changes. Otherwise it is useless and best to leave it off as it confuses many people.

Your paved road (236) line seems a little bit wide, not sure if its the screen version I am looking at but since you are trying to highlight trails, I would make the road less prominent, it tends to dominate the design as it is.

I dont have a problem with your bridge icons themselves but on this map where there seems to be alot of bridges it seems they make for alot of clutter. Personally I would not feel it was important to diffferentiate footbridges with or without handrails. The bridge icon is also rather large compared to your Grove Name icon which you indicate may be the only way to determine location while on a hike (for lack of other landmarks) so I would probably switch the emphasis to the Grove icons.

If you have not already, spend some time looking at Swiss 1:25,000 scale topo maps or good orienteering maps it will give you a sense of how good symbology can make a map hyper information rich without appearing cluttered.

Swiss Topo
Swiss Topo Symbology

Pat Dunlavey's topographic Hiking Maps

#5
Nick Springer

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I agree with martin about your symbology: emphasize the groves and benches a little more. The "G" and "B" are very small and almost impossible to see. Maybe try creating a single symbol to represent these with a "G" and "B" modifier to differentiate. I would also recommend matching the label color to the symbol color to associate them.

If you do want to keep the handrail/no-handrail distinction you should make the difference a bit more obvious. The slight grey shade is hard to make out. Did you try using squares (or small rectangles rotated to match the trail) instead of circles for the bridges. That might evoke bridge a little more. You could reduce the line weight a bit on these and they wouldn't be as dominating, especially in clusters.

Overall the map is very nice and aesthetically pleasing. Nice work.

Nick Springer

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#6
ELeFevre

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Dave,
"Rank" amateur? Your map looks great!
I really would not worry to much about differentiating between handrail/no-handrail bridges. However, if you think they are necessary, why not change the circle of the "no hand-rail" symbol to a different color, like red? That might work. As far as breaking convension, I like the solid line of the hiking trails better than a dashed line. They are much easier to see. I agree with Martin that (286) could be taken down a bit.

Are there any firetowers in the area? I know some people really like to see firetowers on maps for a variety of reasons (historical, emergencies, et cetera). I'm guessing that the "viewing platform" labeled on the map might be an old tower?

Overal it's an excellent map. Good job. Erin



#7
Dave Baselt

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Many thanks to all for the helpful input.

You're right, the 236 does look kind of awkward at that width. I'll reduce its width and maybe use a red centerline to indicate that it's a major road.

I wanted to distinguish between footbridges with and without handrails to provide yet another navigational aid. There's actually quite a difference between the two types: the ones without handrails are usually a couple of planks nailed together and thrown across a stream, while the ones with handrails are much more substantial and may have cement footings and trestle supports. I use the presence or absence of handrails to distinguish between major and minor bridges because, while it would be difficult to classify bridges by size, it's perfectly clear whether or not each bridge has handrails. But I agree that if I'm going to make the distinction, I should make it clearly. Also, I'll try reducing the size of the bridge icons.

Nick, that's a good suggestion to match color of the grove labels to the "G" and "B" symbols...in fact, I'm wondering now why I didn't think of that myself! I'll try increasing the size of the little "G"s and "B"s and/or devising a graphic symbol of some sort. I'm actually kind of surprised that you were able to tell they were "G"s and "B"s at all in this low-resolution JPEG.

Martin, I'm a huge fan of traditional European maps. Not only are they elegant looking, they're a pleasure to use, and the Swiss Topo maps are a great example. I once considered trying to make my maps look just like them, down to the serif fonts. Pat Dunlavey's maps are quite impressive too and I just ordered a few of them so I can take a closer look...I'm always on the lookout for examples of high-quality hiking maps.

I'll try using the USGS DLMs for contour lines. I initially didn't like the look of the vector data but I also haven't spent much time trying to make it look nice.

Frax, I will in fact include descriptive text with each map. Distance markers are something that I find useful, too...I've just been too lazy to add them! For photography I use a Canon 10D with 17-40 and 24-70 mm lenses, plus either a compact or a full-size carbon fiber tripod.

Erin, I don't think there are any firetowers in this particular area, but there are in other areas that I will be mapping. I agree that they're important landmarks and should be marked on the map.

Thanks again for the critiques - this has been very useful.

DB

#8
Dave Baselt

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Here's an updated version of the map. I'm now using MAPublisher to generate a vector basemap, which required switching to Illustrator. I think the switch was worthwhile.

Posted Image

Posted Image

DB

#9
vandalmax

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Dave,

This version looks great. Nice work.

#10
Nick Springer

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Much improved, nice work! Looks very refined and aesthetically pleasing.

Nick Springer

Director of Design and Web Applications: ALK Technologies Inc.
Owner: Springer Cartographics LLC


#11
ELeFevre

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Dave,
The map looks great. I thought your first draft was good, but this is excellent. Very clean and extremely useful. Erin



#12
Rick Dey

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Dave,

I also like the new style, it has a simpler, cleaner look. But unless I'm missing it, it looks as though the definition of "Other trails" in the legend was dropped in this version. All those nice greyscale routes are undefined.
Rick Dey

#13
Dave Baselt

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Dave,

I also like the new style, it has a simpler, cleaner look.  But unless I'm missing it, it looks as though the definition of "Other trails" in the legend was dropped in this version.  All those nice greyscale routes are undefined.

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Doh! I stole the legend from a single-sheet version of the map that covers the entire park and doesn't have "other trails" or "alternate trails". Problem fixed.

Thanks for your comments! I was looking one day at the 1:25000 scale Pathfinder maps produced by Britain's Ordnance Survey and was struck by how they use only four subtle colors to great effect. So I gave it a try myself, although my maps are still rather colorful compared to the Pathfinder maps.

DB

#14
Dennis McClendon

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Let me add my compliments as well for a beautiful map.

The only thing that still gives me pause is the little traffic circles for bridges. I would experiment with something more like an = sign aligned with the trail, which might be a little more intuitive for users. They could still have high visibility at a tiny symbol size because the trail itself would be missing in the middle, between the "handrails." I've differentiated between the two types of bridges with colors, but you might be able to do the no-handrail version with a really narrow line weight.
Attached File  bridge_symbols.GIF   1.79KB   132 downloads
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#15
Dave Baselt

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Chicarto,
Thanks for your suggestion. It hadn't occurred to me that my bridge symbols might look like traffic circles, since we don't have many of those in California.
I did in fact try a symbol like the one you suggest, but it didn't work very well for bridges that are in a hairpin turn, which are fairly common. That was also the problem with the traditional bridge symbol.

DB




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