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#1
MapMedia

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I am posting 2 thematic maps for review. These are serving as templates for approx. 125 maps, so I am trying to nail down a simple design that works in greyscale. These maps will be published in a historical atlas, so you know the audience.

Mostly, I would appreciate feedback on overall map design (frame, spacing, etc.) and does the map pull the reader into the message (in this case West Virginia or eastern states) and ways to improve.

Fonts used on map: Franklin Gothic (sans serif) and Minion Pro (serif).

Not happy with relief, but I spent way too much time fussing with it - will hopefully fiddle with it later. Its a linked image, so its easy to alter and effect all maps.

Thanks, as always.

Map 1

Map 2

#2
David T

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I'm looking over the West Virginia map first, and it works well for me. Since you didn't show a state map with a large body of water (i.e., Atlantic), I don't know if you're going to gray scale that, and whether that might work in contrast to everything else.

I would combine or change the state boundaries and West Virginia boundary line look, and how it appears in the legend. I would rather see it consistent. I also like state names to be capitalized.

A couple of specifics about West Virginia:

- You show 12 items in the legend, but have 13 circles on the map.
- Is there a reason why the 7, 8, and 9 are arranged in south to north, compared to the 10-13 arranged north to south?
- There is some sort of black, broken dashed line on the Ohio River, and the western and northern boundaries of West Virginia. I'm not sure if those are 'other rivers' or if something else is going on there. I'm guessing it's the state boundary and the 'other river' being on top of one another?
- I assume there's a reason for the bingo numbers? (You use Lat/Long on the other map).

The Eastern States map:

- RI & DE - can you shrink the font size on that just slightly, to fit those into the states?
- Mississippi in the northern part of the map doesn't look right. At least add an 'R.' to it. The text patch of white goes into gray territory.
- You use latitude lines in the water, but you don't use longitude lines in the water.
- The use of 21st century state boundaries for the non-interest boundaries looks off when compared to the 18th century boundaries you using for other parts of the map. I guess the mixing of the two boundaries throws me off.
- It might be the screen I'm using to view your work, but I need just a slight more contrast between the non-interest areas, and the Great Lakes. They almost blend in together.
- The coastline of northeastern Canada and the Bahama Islands is a little 'harsh'.

Sorry if all of that seemed nitpicky, that wasn't the intention. Hope I gave you some good feedback on that.

Overall, I do like the layout and the concept. It looks good. I think it's just about there.
David Toney, GISP
GIS Manager
United States Marine Corps
West Coast Installations

#3
sitesatlas

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Hi Chris,

Very nice, clear maps. I just noticed a couple more things:
- On Map 1, I was curious about the symbol you used for the locks and dams -- I think it usually represents a fort.
- On Map 2, the St. Lawrence River is spelled wrong.

The lower resolution data for Canada and the Bahamas looks funny to me and it doesn't match up well along the international border (black spots on border with MN, NY, eastern ME).
Michael Borop
World Sites Atlas
http://www.sitesatlas.com

#4
BioGeoMan

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On the W. Virginia Map:
  • What is the purpose of the map index (ABC - 1234)?
  • I am not sure that the dam location symbols work very well.

On the regional map:
  • Maybe you should consider rotating the state names similar to the way you rotated "Atlantic Ocean" for consistency.
  • Why are the NE states and N. Carolina not greyed out like the rest of the states that don't contain any battles or other actions?
  • Maybe you shouldn't show latitude lines without showing longitude lines also. I think you could get away without showing either.
  • Should you show the state line between Tennessee and N. Carolina like you have with the rest of the states and still label it NC?
  • I would delete the islands off of Florida.
  • Do you need to title the "Key". You can barely tell the word is there and what it is associated with.
  • The spacing of items in the legend are off.

Overall good template with minor stuff that you will fix later anyways.

Michael Scisco

BioGeoCreations
Albuquerque, NM

505-603-3636
biogeocreations.com


#5
Jean-Louis

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French spelling: its Fort Ligonier (not Lingonier)
Jean-Louis Rheault
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#6
MapMedia

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Thank you David, SiteAtlas, BigGeoman and JL for the comments.

I agree with them all, esp. the typos, and also the background country resolution - was trying to emphasize the US states.
The mad index (ABC,123) is something I thought would be a good addition to an Atlas where a lot of information is plotted on the map, so readers could make references to sections of the map grid.

The lat lines on Map2 are unique to the historical topic, so longitudinal lines were not added, but referred to on the frame.

Dam symbols- I was using map symbols from 1st edition. Am now assigning all new symbols for the maps.
Any thoughts about the symbols used on Map2?

Thank you! Chris

#7
Nick Springer

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Black and white maps are a big part of my bread-and-butter, and I think they present a special challenge as you really have to choose you symbolization and hierarchy carefully. Overall I think you have done a great job. From a more general design template standpoint here are a few suggestions:
  • The overall figure/ground needs some work. You can see the problem around the Great lake but even the Atlantic matches the land although it is saved by the coastline shading (which could be more subtle).
  • 3D fort icons don't fit the style on the U.S. map
  • If you must use hatching (as in WV - and I don't like hatching) don't use the blocky hatching (looks like 1984 MacPaint)
  • The "Bank Gothic" type font for the Lat/Long labels doesn't fit, just stick to Franklin Gothic.
  • On the WV map, the river and border interaction is convoluted. I would recommend putting the rivers on the top layer (especially since they are a thematic focus here) and make the borders wider so that they are visible underneath. You might even try a blurred gray base border with a light dashed line on top and thinner rivers above that.
  • I'm not a big fan of the gradient scale bars, seems a bit gratuitous.

Nick Springer

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


#8
Dennis McClendon

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On Map 1, the West Virginia boundary is too complicated. You need a very simple way to show political boundaries and a simple way to show rivers, one that works together when they coincide. A few river names (Elk River) aren't italic.

On Map 2, I'm puzzled by the mixture of current state boundaries with 18th century land claims. How is it that North Carolina goes all the way to the Mississippi but not Virginia or Connecticut? Not clear why "Mississippi" near Minneapolis is different from "Mississippi River" near Vicksburg. Seems like V I R G I N I A shoulld be large and letterspaced, with modern state boundaries as tiny dotted lines within that.

Another trap on maps like this is modern water features, such as Lake Barkley/Kentucky Lake in Western Tennessee, or the one along the S.C./Ga. border, or the modern shoreline of Lake Okeechobee.

I'm not sure why two kinds of symbols have elaborate three-dimensional shading, but others don't. There's nothing mnemonic about the shapes chosen. An intact fort symbol and a broken or altered fort symbol would tell part of the story without having to read the legend. Bouquet's and Cornstalk's routes could be labelled directly on the map.

I've never before seen a map with both a Key and a Legend--both of them self-consciously labeled. The north arrow, I notice, doesn't point north. That's often a dilemma with small-scale maps like this.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#9
MapMedia

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Thank you also Nick and Dennis for weighing in. Very useful comments.

I have revisited the symbols and simplified the line / polygon work.
Am also interested in using the NHGIS historical boundary datasets - Does anyone have experience with this data?

In general, I am moving the basemaps one notch from complex to simple, possibly loose gradients, shadows, etc., and keep the linework as squeaky clean as possible.

Thanks again for your time in reviewing these early drafts - it has really helped.

#10
Dennis McClendon

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I haven't worked with the NHGIS dataset, but if the examples you posted are typical of the kind of maps you're doing, I would suggest that GIS is just the wrong tool for the job. The kind of boundaries you need on historic maps are best done by hand, where you demonstrate that you know and understand where they were set at a certain point in time. As we've pointed out, the coarse boundaries for Canada and the Bahamas already compromise the look of your map. It would have been a lot easier to have started with an ordinary clip art Illustrator map of North America and modified that.

I'm puzzled that people will think that three hours of redrawing rivers is a terrible waste of time, but that six hours of thinning and correcting a hydrology dataset to produce the same result is high productivity. When you're redrawing a river or a boundary, you have the opportunity to think about it, and about things (like modern reservoirs) that might be anachronistic and about other things (like the bays and barrier islands of the Outer Banks) that are inappropriately detailed for the scale of your map.

I am not trying to be mean to you personally. I am crying out for my fellow cartographers to think long and hard about how GIS is altering our finished products.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#11
MapMedia

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You're a real ball buster, Dennis. But I guess that can be good a thing sometimes, in small measures.
I do agree with your point though. Thinking about things practically, at altitude, is the 1st step for any project.
Yet GIS is a great tool, one that I am not soon to part with, especially if you compare the 5 minutes it takes to run a line simplification algorithm on a river database on 8 states versus hand tracing. Who's kidding who here, my tracing skills are excellent, but the time/effect equation has to be considered.

Again, I appreciate all of the comments and will post a link to the final version of the maps to show, if anything, that I do value peer feedback.

#12
peanut

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I'm puzzled that people will think that three hours of redrawing rivers is a terrible waste of time, but that six hours of thinning and correcting a hydrology dataset to produce the same result is high productivity.


To play devil's avocate... I use the USGS NHD quite frequently and with the proper use of definition queries you can thin and correct the hydrology dataset quite quickly. I used the NHD as my starting point for the streams and rivers on http://waterquality.lcra.org. If I would have redrawn all of the streams and rivers in the Colorado River basin in Texas from scratch it would have taken far longer than using the NHD.

Rich

#13
Nick Springer

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Like Dennis, I am not always an eager user of GIS, mostly though because I am used to doing it without GIS and it takes me longer sometimes. However there are definitely times I need GIS and use it, so I can see both sides. The big drawback to tracing is that if you want to use that again somewhere it is usually in a different projection or difficult to register to other features.

I have never tried this, but it seems like you could use Manifold or other GIS to do the tracing (but it probably doesn't do bezier curves) and then have nicely draws and georeferenced data that can be reused easily. I know Manifold can import images and "rubber-sheet" them using control points.

Nick Springer

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Owner: Springer Cartographics LLC


#14
Dennis McClendon

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I'm sorry. I really don't want to be thought of as a ballbuster. Your West Virginia atlas is for the most part a handsome and well-designed piece of work. I'm just seizing on a couple of tiny flaws to talk about the philosophy of mapmaking today.

To strain an analogy I've used here before, I think a good landscaper will have both a backhoe and a garden spade. He won't try to plant flowers with the backhoe, and won't try to move a hillside using the garden spade.

Page-sized maps for a historical atlas, of familiar North American areas, seems like an assignment for which you'd use GIS just a little (if at all) and use illustration software a lot. Not because it isn't possible to do it entirely with one tool or another, but because it's clumsy to do so--or because the result suffers. Historical boundary files undoubtedly are a useful tool if you're creating choropleth maps of hundreds of historic polygons. Using them to display the boundaries of two dozen states and territories in 1803 strikes me as planting flowers with a backhoe.

I certainly hate to redraw a boundary or river that I've drawn several times before, Nick, but I just can't accept a world without Béziér curves. One of the reasons I got so excited about Dick Furno's Azimuth product was that it allowed nice linework to move back and forth between illustration software and a geodatabase. But no one has really solved the problem of GIS data having either too little or too much detail for the scale.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#15
Charles Syrett

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As usual, I'm with Dennis on this. Use the right tools for the job! Whether it's drawing or GIS. Most of the bread-and-butter work my company does involves making small illustration maps, often for a deadline that's anywhere from 2 hours to 4 days away, and the fastest way to do them is simply to draw. Find some good government (or other reliable) base maps online, screenshot them (don't forget the scalebars), slip them into a FreeHand template, and do the think-and-draw process that's at the very heart of cartography. And always use multiple sources. And check everything!

GIS works for some of our large projects, but I'm scared of what it's doing to the compilation instinct in our trade. Often a good data set gives one the illusion that no further research or compilation is necessary -- a deadly trap indeed.

Charles Syrett
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