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Book Reference Map

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Hi all, I've been lurking here a bit and wanted to put up one of the few maps I've made in this forum. A friend of mine wrote a book on mountain rescue stories in Boulder County, Colorado and wanted a small map in the appendix to show the locations of the main rescues. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get much of a review of it before it was published (it being my first such effort).
-The small inset map at the bottom was a last minute request that I didn't have much time/software available to work with.
-There is a title for the map on the page in the book above the map
-Total size is about 4" x 5"
-Most work done in ArcMap, then Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator

I'd appreciate feedback to help me next time!

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Hans van der Maarel

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Hi Dan,

I think it's a very nice and elegant map, especially within the confines of having to work in greyscale. The only
recommendations I would make are:
- The symbol for minor town has the same color as the roads. A simple stroke on the symbol would do the trick I think.
- The shade used for Rocky Mountain National Park seems to be the same (or too similar) to the one used for major cities. A little bit more distinction would be nice.
- The north arrow is somewhat bothering me, at fist glance I thought the map was not north oriented but leaning a few degrees to the east...
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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Hello Dan.

Great map! A few suggestions:

  • I was wondering why you added effects to the city boundaries? I understand that the accuracy of their boundaries is not a big deal for this map, but they look a bit odd.
  • Do you think you should add the boundaries for the bordering counties?
  • Why is the Ward town symbol larger than the others? If I remember right Ward is a pretty small town.
  • What is "Diamond"? IT seems to be in a different font than anything else on the map. Is it a peak?
  • Why is the Flatirons annotation all caps, when no other topo feature is labeled that way?
  • Labeling the Boulder Watershed is a good idea, but where are its boundaries? No streams/rivers?
  • I like your inset map! Maybe change the font or size of "Enlarged Area" to stand out a bit more.


Michael Scisco

Albuquerque, NM


Dennis McClendon

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  • Something’s wonky about the Boulder city limits (Lyon and Nederland too). City limits in the western US seldom have any curved lines. It looks like the artifact of a simplification operation somewhere. This is the sort of think where you can wrestle all morning with a GIS simplification operation or you can just wait til you're in Illustrator and use your brain/hand to trace a much-simplified—but orthogonal—city limits. Similarly, once you're in Illustrator and know the line weight and scale, look for highways whose curves double back on themselves and adjust the linework to avoid that.
  • The highways need shields with their numbers and road names alongside minor roads. The roads might look better as thin cased lines so no one would think the minor roads were streams (as I did).
  • I would use italics for landforms (mountain and canyon names) and put the county names in letterspaced all caps.
  • Labeling South Arapahoe Peak to the left would avoid the callout line.
  • Why show Buchanan Pass if you don’t show a road or trail using it?
  • The proportions are wrong for Colorado—as if it was taken from a Plate-Carrée basemap. And you shouldn’t use a + sign for towns, as it traditionally (and on the enlarged map) signifies a mountain peak or point.
  • I don’t mind the carat mountains on the state map, but they should be flatter and the distribution should be a bit more true (or do they represent individual 14ers?).
  • Diamond appears to be the wrong typeface. Ogallala Peak is misspelled.

Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics




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Thank you all very much for the very detailed feedback! You were able to pick up on a lot of subtle points for improvement that only a cartographer would likey pick up on--if I were to make an improved version I'd likely address nearly all the feedback given here.

A few comments for clarifying some of the points that came up:
-The city boundaries look the way they do as a result of trying to simplify/generalize them automatically, I liked aspects of this stylized representation, as is however, these probably don't have the greatest fit.
[A side note: The simplifying of the complex city boundaries was actually done in photoshop as an experiment. Taking only the city boundaries as I layer, I believe I kept using one of the effects filter multiple times (either/or a generalize/simplify filter and the cutout filter) ]
-The changes in font (which weren't originally intended) came about as a result of doing the whole project on one machine/ version of Adobe products, then later having to add requested elements with different software versions on a borrowed computer. There were a lot of vector file problems to the point of not being able to work in vector again, in addition to not having the original font sets on the borrowed computer at all. As a result many of the noticeable typography differences came about as having to throw in these additions at the last minute in photoshop (Flatirons, Diamond (which is the name of a famous alpine wall in the book BTW), Peak to Peak Byway, ...)
-Good catch on Ogallala Peak. I had to look very hard on your (correct) spelling to see the diffence in this uncommon name.
-As a grayscale map, I did have challenges in the differentiatiation of the varying features. When you have elements that are either adjacent (e.g. town symbols and roads) or similar in symbol (e.g. cities and parks) would a minimum difference in percentage gray be 20% 30% (the towns could have a white casing over the roads as well)

The typography and symbol conventions are good learning points (no pun intended) for my next such effort.

Dan M

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