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Graphic Arts and GIS - how to books?

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#1
nonie3234

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At our company - we have a GIS department, working in ArcMap. Then there is a graphic artist who works in Adobe CS3. We have no training in graphics, she has no training in GIS. We export the map to her as an "ai" file. She pulls it into Adobe, then makes a brochure for our clients.

We are in the process of combining these two jobs. I have been tasked with finding out what all's involved in that. (In fact - once it is combined - this will become MY new position here!)

I have some questions for you all:

What is your favorite graphics software? Does everyone just go right from the GIS file to the graphics program directly, or do more people use some sort of "bridge" program like MAPublisher?

And finally - what I have been having the HARDEST time finding an answer to:

What resources exist for learning the GRAPHIC part of GIS? Are there any books, magazines, websites or classes that explain how to make maps in a graphics program?

I have TONS of books on GIS, and another TON of books about the Adobe products - but NOTHING that combines the two. I've spent way too much time looking on Google and in Amazon - with no luck there either.

Any advice for me would be deeply appreciated! Thank you!

#2
Charlie Frye

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First, see: http://www.cartotalk...st cartographer

As for resources see Mapping Center where many of the examples/techniques are explained with the design rationale, though predominantly from a cartographic perspective, which may be underpinned by geography or graphic communication knowledge. It's our active intent to expand our content while including the design guidance and geographic integrity, so participate there as actively as you can.

My opinion, on "GRAPHIC part of GIS" is that it's cartography; which is not to imply cartography is an offshoot of GIS. Also, be leery of my use of the term cartography, as it is a loaded term in the sense that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Cartography text books for the last 50 years have consistently conveyed the principles for communicating things geographic on a 2D surface, and more recently the texts are addressing additional dimensions of information. Computers which have added the ability to work with 3D, animation, complex relationships, etc. expanded the scope of cartography while at the same time software makers have been struggling to provide the tools for mapmaking that were essentially centuries in the making for analog cartography. So, in at least one way, things have never been better for map makers in a digital environment in that we are flush with tools and information.

The education and training to put these tools and information to good use, I think are available in geography departments at colleges and universities. I don't think there are any shortcuts, and that's because geography (as a scholarly or academic discpline) is real and cannot be faked. I value what I learned and consider myself lucky to get to use my geography training nearly every day in my professional life.

In that vein, or more properly what inspired that vein was Jerry Dobson's recent piece in ArcNews: Bring Back Geography! It was a worthwhile read--even my wife (a food scientist by training) liked it and got it.
Charlie Frye
Chief Cartographer
Software Products Department
ESRI, Redlands, California

#3
Hans van der Maarel

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In addition to Charlie's comments, I would like to recommend a couple of recent cartography textbooks:
Designing Better Maps, by Cynthia Brewer
Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS by John Krygier and Dennis Wood

Both cover the fundamentals of good cartographic design, without really going into the specifics of various software products. So a good grasp of the concepts discussed in those books along with proficiency in the software you end up choosing would be a great start.

As for favourite, we've had discussions like this in the past and there's still a poll running. Many people here prefer an all-GIS approach, many others (including me) go for a GIS + Illustrator/MAPublisher angle.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#4
nonie3234

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Thank you both so much!

I don't think I communicated my problem correctly.
I do already have the books you mentioned.
I already have a GIS and cartography background and experience.

In addition - I have a pile of Adobe Illustrator manuals.

What I am missing is the specifics - what to do with the map once I export it into Illustrator.
The Illustrator books I have do not address the specifics of maps, and the cartography books do not mention the specifics of Illustrator.

I wish I had a book that would wed the two.

I have been getting specific advice from individuals who have taught themselves this process.
I was hoping that someone had compiled all these things!

#5
Wes Peck

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Where I work, we too have a graphics department and I am the GIS department. Over the past few years I have picked up the role as part time graphics guy also. Most of the products I create start in ArcGIS and go through some aspect of the Adobe CS2 series before they are finished. I really like my hybrid position and wish you luck in what may become your new position.

#6
nonie3234

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Wes - yes, you are exactly right!
I am looking forward to this new position!

So - how did you learn what to do with the layers once they entered Adobe?
Did you have a manual, book or some kind of tutorial?
Or was this something you and your coworkers picked up on your own?

I noticed (from rooting around in Google) that some universities teach Adobe Illustrator in their Cartography classes.
Do you think I will need that, or (since I already have a lot of experience in ArcMap) that I will be able to pick it up as I go?

I have scheduled time with some Graphic Artists in my company - they will teach me how to use Illustrator.
Once I've learned that product, I will be on my own!

(I have to confess, I am a little nervous. Maybe I am over thinking this?)

#7
Dennis McClendon

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Maybe I am over thinking this?)

Perhaps. Once you have brought the various layers from GIS to Illustrator, you simply look at them and see what needs to be done. Change the color or line weight? Simplify some paths? Make judgment calls about weeding out small water features, polygons, or placenames? Substitute different symbols, or resize each symbol? Reframe, retitle, make a new scale and north arrow? Redraw some paths or features for a smoother look?

At some point, a good chef puts aside the recipe and actually tastes the sauce.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#8
Martin Gamache

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I agree with Dennis. NO book is going to answer every question about every specific map you will be asked to make.

Be prepared to learn by doing and to make mistakes and not be too committed to any approach to not make changes along the way. I would say that learning Illustrator well should be a prerequisite. It sounds like you may be getting a little bit over your head...that can be OK if you are talented and are a fast learner.

However you choose to go from the GIS world to the graphic software world, know the route well. But that technical stuff has been covered extensively here before.

As far as map design goes, posting drafts here will get you some feedback. Showing the work to other cartographers and designers will also generate new ideas some of which you may want to consider.

This is something you learn by doing. There is nothing that can replace sweat equity.

#9
supercooper

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I'm a ArcGIS/Illy/MapPublisher guy as well. Love the combo, love using Illustrator, as it obviously gives so many more options. Illy does have a steep learning curve (IMO), but I just taught it to myself like anything else. Just get in there and click around, you'll be amazed at what you can do. I know the people on this forum have been especially helpful to me when I had something that Google and I couldn't figure out.

I am the sole GIS person for our workgroup, and since picking up Illustrator, I have had the opportunity to also do some graphics work for special projects and upper management, which is kinda cool. You become the "Hey, so-and-so can do that" person - which can be both good and bad of course.

HTH

#10
ELeFevre

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I think it's important to seek-out examples of what you consider to be great design and visually deconstruct what you see. Figure out how you could create the various elements using your GIS or Illustrator (doesn't really matter) and and how you would improve the design. You're not going to find a manual that tells you what to do with an exported GIS map in Illustrator. In fact, there's nothing stopping you (or anyone) from designing a map in your GIS using the same principles you would use in Illustrator. Illustrator will give you more design tools (because it's design specific) but it doesn't guarantee a better design. Some GIS applications (i.e. ArcGIS) come loaded with lots of carto-specific tools. have fun!



#11
nonie3234

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Thank you all so much for your replies! I think, more than anything, I needed confidence and support, and you all provided that heartily! This is a great group.

Erin - That is a really good idea. I really like the ESRI Map Books (I have collected them over the years) and they would be a great source of inspiration, I think.

supercooper - Your post made me laugh, because this change in my position is EXACTLY the result of plans by upper management for them to have a Graphics and Special Projects person! So - apparently - this type of Hybrid is not unusual. I actually got a note from a Senior Vice President who said that she can't wait to see what I come up with. I guess I'm feeling a little pressure - at the same time - this is really exciting!

Martin - I am very fortunate that my company is providing me with training in Illustrator, and is also providing me with the luxury of time to "learn by doing and to make mistakes". I will take your advice and post a draft when I get stuck. I think I may benefit from reading some of the archives here. Believe me when I tell you - I am not looking for a shortcut - I know I will have to work hard to achieve this. I was only hoping to find the lessons already learned by those who have taught themselves, instead of spending precious time reinventing the wheel.

Dennis - "a good chef puts aside the recipe and actually tastes the sauce" - yes, yes...you are right, and that is a perfect way to put it. I think I just need to exhale and trust myself. I do have a background in Graphics Arts (although that was years ago) and I have my current experience in GIS. I have only to combine the two!

In short - I think it is a shame that there isn't a book for Adobe Illustrator that concentrates on map design specifically. Especially since the more I talk about this subject to other GIS professionals, the more I hear "Oh, I just taught myself". Not that there's anything wrong with that - but - I know from my own experience - teaching yourself a program increases the chance that you'll miss something. I was very confident in my Excel skills, for instance, until I took my first Excel class and realized that there are many features of that program that a self-taught user will be unlikely to find on their own.

I went to a bookstore yesterday, and found a book on Illustrator for Fashion Design, and plenty of general reference books for Illustrator. Why NOT have a book called "Illustrator for Cartographers"? Perhaps one of you will write that book?

#12
nonie3234

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Here are some interesting things I found while rooting around the internets:


http://ngmdb.usgs.go...ocs/Rupp04b.pdf

http://gis2.esri.com...ers/pap1101.pdf

http://forums.esri.c...t=222368#673927



#13
GISRox

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Check out The Adobe Illustrator CS2 WOW! Book by Sharon Steuer. It has some mapping related topics.



#14
nonie3234

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Oh, cool - I think that one of the Graphic artists has that book...I'll go see.
Thanks!

#15
peanut

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In short - I think it is a shame that there isn't a book for Adobe Illustrator that concentrates on map design specifically. Especially since the more I talk about this subject to other GIS professionals, the more I hear "Oh, I just taught myself". Not that there's anything wrong with that - but - I know from my own experience - teaching yourself a program increases the chance that you'll miss something. I was very confident in my Excel skills, for instance, until I took my first Excel class and realized that there are many features of that program that a self-taught user will be unlikely to find on their own.

I went to a bookstore yesterday, and found a book on Illustrator for Fashion Design, and plenty of general reference books for Illustrator. Why NOT have a book called "Illustrator for Cartographers"? Perhaps one of you will write that book?


I am not sure how necessary an Illustrator book for Cartographers is...

I agree with Hans that a good grasp of Cartographic concepts coupled with proficiency in the software of your choice is what you need to make good maps.

I use ArcMap and Adobe Illustrator and feel that both products have matured to the point that if you can dream it you can do it with these tool kits. Using the tools in Adobe Illustrator is going to be pretty much the same whether you are using the software to edit the vectors in maps or cartoon illustrations.

Rich




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