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Conveying environmental data

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#1
MarkW

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As I produce maps of various contamination sites, I often wonder if they are cartographically correct. Likewise, can improvements be made to color combinations, transparency settings, font format, or overall layout. This first map is intended to display ground water contours and flow direction with respect to several monitoring wells and other features. Monitoring wells are labeled with name, analytical concentration in ground water, and ground water elevation. I am open to constructive criticism.

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#2
DaveB

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I think the first question to ask is who is the audience? If it's some kind of experts are there standards they are used to and does this conform to any such standards?

Audience aside, the things I noticed first are the logo (big splash of color in the upper left) and the road (only solid block of color on the map). Lots of different lines, too. I might consider adding a fill to to the driveways, too. The contaminated area doesn't stand out at all. Should it? Currently it looks pretty mild, nice green outline. No worries there?

The stream data looks "funky". The solid line stream in the upper center is made of a few obvious straight line segments. The dashed lines conected to it seem to have a bit more curvature. The solid line stream near the bottom center looks like bezier curves.

The spacing between the title block and the map's neatline is uneven, more space at the bottom than the side. I would make the spacing even or maybe try butting it up right against the neatline.

The north arrow seems off-center. It's probably aligned to the center of the whole scale bar including labels and the text below. Might try moving it closer to the center of just the scale bar minus the labels.

Those are my initial impressions/thought. Mostly minor stuff and possibly a matter of taste.
Dave Barnes
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#3
Gretchen Peterson

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To go along with what Dave said, I too noticed the logo first. Since your eye tends to start at the upper left corner and travel to the lower right as a general rule, I'd switch the logo/author info with the title box. Also, you could add a lot of richness to this if you added some kind of shaded background to the main map. Maybe very lightly rendered parcel lot lines or high-res hillshade.

The 1-4 text on the upper-right could just be made into short paragraphs. I was mistakingly looking all over for the numbers in the map because I thought that was some sort of key. What do the big arrows pointing out from the circled areas mean?

The main thing to do here is to try to gain some sort of background/foreground contrast. So take all the stuff that isn't immediately important and make it go to the background (that big gray road, for example). Then really highlight the text so it pops out. I'm not saying it is terrible as-is, I am just saying that if you wanted to put in the time you could make the map easier to read at a glance. That's up to you of course. I see that it must be a challenge to get so much textual information on to one sheet of paper and maintain legibility!

#4
MapMedia

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Hi Mark,

I feel your pain, but in the case you provided, and in this situation (who you make maps for and for whom, and that these maps are authoritative in a regulatory environment*), I would keep them as is. Keep it simple, and make sure its geographically correct since this map defines the location of monitoring wells - so there may be some agency or consultant for such agency, going to these wells for future sampling. Therefore it should be clean and accurate.

I like the logo as is - you are the regulators, so its good to make the logo prominent.

Legend? don't go crazy, but the various line features could be described.

You say ground water depth, but isn't it depth to groundwater?

* I noticed your caveat #4, but is that really true? Seems like a map DEP makes will be seen as authoritative. Check on this.

Thanks for posting! Chris

#5
David Medeiros

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Do you have the complete shapes of the graound water contours? This map would really stand out if you could close those contours into polygons and fill them such that you get a graideint in the direction of flow. Over that you could place a more subtle version of the flow arrows (thicker stem line but lighter color, perhaps even a knock-out arrow if over a solid background). As suggested I would fill the driveways with a light grey (same as or lighter than the road). Swap the title block for the seal, re-align your N arrow. Agree on dropping the numbers from your notes unless they are connected directly to numbered itmes on the map.

It's difficult to suggest adding a legend since I assume the people viewing this map will be familiar with the symbology used? if thats not the case then you should describe some of the lines and symbology. I would try a background air photo (screened back) just to see what it looks like, but I have a feeling that it will detract from the primary purpose of the map - to visiualize the water countours, water flow and contamination area. A very light grey background fill could work instead.

Type looks ok. I'd use a diffrest color blue for the rivers and the WL Elevations, that bright blue puts it right on top of the visual hirnarchy, overpowering the contour lines.

dave

edited to add: speaking of visual hirearchy, any lines that are not part of the primary data layer could be screened back to add emphasis to more important lines and type. E.g. The property lines and road edges could be a dark grey instead of solid black. Thinking as a cartographer, not an envomental mapper - I might also try to create a very slight green gradient fill behind the tree line to emphasise the seperation between clearing and woods. Totally for fun and assumes you are working in Illustrator ;)

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