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Why use illustrator?

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#1
Bob Christensen

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Hello all,

I am interested in learning why many folks on the board seem to like using AI for map production. I have CS2 and use PS, GL, ID, and Acrobat almost every day but I have never used AI.

My primary map making program is ArcGIS 9.1 though I use 3.3 from time to time to do things that I can not quickly figure out in 9.1. If the benefits of using AI in conjunction with ESRI software are worth it I would not mind learning how to use AI.

Forgive if this has been detailed before. I was unable to find anything succinct via search.

I look forward to your responses.

Bob

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Up until fairly recently, Illustrator (or Freehand for that matter) offered a lot more freedom and options in terms of design. I understand this difference is shrinking rapidly with the new developemts in the ESRI line of software though.

Graphics programs like Illustrator and Freehand generally offer a better output to documents for print or web (EPS, PDF to name but a few). It all boils down to what you want to produce and for what output medium. For many maps, you don't really need the extra functionality of Illustrator.

Personally, I've been using Illustrator for 8 years now, started out with version 7. I 'grew up' with the Illy/MAPublisher combination and I'm very fond of it.
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#3
Matthew Hampton

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I think it boils down to creative freedom and integration with printing press operators.

I starting making maps with Arcview Classic and was quickly frustrated with the lack cartographic tools. Sure, I could make maps - but not the way I wanted them to look, so I switched to software that gave me the freedom to design and create the way in which I wanted.

ArcGIS offered more cartographic tools and was a definite step in the right direction, but the toolset does not inspire me to put the finishing touches on my maps, while Adobe's Creative Suite does.

You mention you use Photoshop and perhaps that is your tool of choice for cartographic manipulation and finishing. You can do a lot more vector work in later versions of PS than previously possible - but Illustrator and Freehand remain the top vector tools for design.
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#4
Mike H

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It also gets down to reaching an impasse - you may find a situation where the design tools in Arc cannot do what you want to do, and Illy can. However, illy is equally complex as Arc insofar as learning a new software tool, so the learning curve can be tough. Experience with other Adobe programs will help, but some folks are more comfortable pursuing advanced map design with Arc's new capabilities.

I think most of us 'go with what you know', personally I'm much more competent in non-GIS design programs, and although I use Arc, I do so just enough to get data into illy - to retreat back into my comfort zone, really.

My comfort zone is when the map is ready for design/style alone, in illy, on a mac. Up to this stage it's actually work, once in the zone it is pure enjoyment.

m.
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#5
Derek Tonn

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My favorite vector mapping design tool (by far!) is Corel Draw 12. Many of the maps I am creating are 3D perspective, depicting height, width and depth of buildings on a campus from a single direction and elevation. Some of our design team uses Adobe Illustrator (and prefers it). I make sure that I am at least good enough to be "dangerous" in Illustrator...as most of the Corel Draw work I created ends up being exported into AI once a project is completed.

I couldn't imagine trying to use GIS or AutoCAD to create the images that I am working on. I've seen a lot of the output from those applications (related to 3D perspective imagery), and it generally feels very stiff, cold and mechanical. I am, however, beginning to explore the use of SketchUp (360-degree 3D mapping), which is closer to the realm of CAD.

Compatibility and flexibility with printing and web-based output is a big plus with Illustrator, Corel Draw and Freehand, in my opinion. However, for me, it primarily comes down to the "warmth" or "feeling" that is created in those graphical applications versus the more "mechanical" look that I generally see coming out of GIS/CAD. My particular type of mapping is a little different though than most, so I'm not sure that I am a good example for this discussion.

My $0.02.

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#6
frax

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For me it is all the last touches that I want to put in a map, such as drop shadows, gradients, glows, bevels, transparency effects and all that. And the freedom to generalize and adjust things arbtrarily ("maybe I'll move those dots a little bit so that they don't overlap too much with that line").

I also think that a graphics program might be better suited for print output too (cmyk, pantone etc etc).

For myself, I often work with quite huge databases, and an SDE server over a slow connection, using graphics software removes a lot of the GIS overhead (data extending outside the map view, re-projection calculations, maintaining topology etc).
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#7
Lui

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For me it is all the last touches that I want to put in a map, such as drop shadows, gradients, glows, bevels, transparency effects and all that. And the freedom to generalize and adjust things arbtrarily ("maybe I'll move those dots a little bit so that they don't overlap too much with that line").

I also think that a graphics program might be better suited for print output too (cmyk, pantone etc etc).

For myself, I often work with quite huge databases, and an SDE server over a slow connection, using graphics software removes a lot of the GIS overhead (data extending outside the map view, re-projection calculations, maintaining topology etc).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Well, I can just agree with Frax. My workflow is rather uniqe. I'm using ArcGIS just for data preparation, to clip large databases, calculate attributes,... The largest amount of cartographic work is done in OCAD where datasets are symbolized, generalized and edited. If I want to put some advanced last touches in a map than I export the map into AI. OCAD has good but not perfect export tool.

Lui

#8
Martin Gamache

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Moderator note: I've moved this post from the Map Gallery to here, as it wasn't about the actual map anymore. Now if only I could find a way to make it go to the bottom of the page...

Nick, good points, too. In this case the labels are being placed dynamically. I would probably convert those to annotation and manually adjust the placement to further refine it.


And that is where software like Illustrator really starts making a difference. Sure you can do it in ARCmap but the time and frustration factor really goes up. Editing annotations in ARC is like a visit to the dentist for me; slow, and painful, prone to crashing my software and not entirely WYSIWYG, at least prior to 9.0. I havent tried it in a while so maybe it has improved but it was so painful the last time that I have no incentive to go back for a another look. I am a big fan of doing as much rough layout as possible within the GIS environment and I often submit GIS output to client as rough sizing and extent proofs but at some point there is cost saving in terms of time and effort that makes switching the smart move. It all depends where your maps and your standards fall and where that line lies for you and your audience/clients.

Part of it is also simple mechanics like panning and zooming using quick intuitive keyboard shortcuts, anti-alias screen previews, color matching, font previews, color seperation previews, rasterizing controls, wacom pen table integration, bezier curves, etc. Fast, intuitive, efficient tools that allow you not to have to think about the tools or feel like you are fighting the computer. Good DTP software has got all those things, why fight with software that can't let you get into that flow moment.

It's also one thing to look at a low res image of a map on a screen compared to a high res print. We might start finding other things that might be better done in the DTP world: i.e. line intersections, gradient smoothness and constent width (sometimes its nice to have a vignette change shape and width around islands), label/text overlap. Probably all stuff that can be matched but at what cost? Knowing when to use which software and how to use it is part of the ©ART(ography).

And Dave your right it's not a bad map and a great proof of concept, but your point would be better made if you didnt work for ESRI and were given the choice to work in whatever software you wanted and had to make a living making that map for a picky editor, day after day.

Edited by Hans van der Maarel, 05 November 2005 - 05:26 AM.


#9
Lori Martin

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I have recently started using Illustrator to "finish" maps. This is for two reasons actually.

1. I am totally frustrated with the lack of graphic tools in ArcGIS and am sick of making plain-looking flat maps

2. I challenged myself to learn Illustrator. It was difficult at first, but I kinda like it. The possibilities of huge. I am still having trouble plotting though. I'll post one of my maps in the gallery.

Anyway, as far as I can see, Illustrator provides the artistic freedom that ArcMap doesn't.
Lori Anne Martin,
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#10
EcoGraphic

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I am still having trouble plotting though. 


I am sure you already know about this, but just in case - Did you find the handy little print area tool under the hand icon? It allows you to drag it out to specify your print area.

That will help with printing.


G
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Design is the intermediary between information and understanding
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#11
ELeFevre

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For me, a dedicated layout and design program like Illustrator offers more robust and timely design/printing/web options than are currently available in any GIS. I know this is certainly true with the GIS I use. That's why I export most of my maps into Illustrator or another design program.

Consider also that programs like Illustrator and Freehand are neatly integrated into families of design software (you mentioned that you use Photoshop), which makes it easier to move between formats/mediums. This is one of the primary reasons I also export.

On the other hand, the program(s) you decide to use should be determined by who the end user is, goal of the project, cartographic skills, et cetera. If you have to create stacks of choroplethic maps everyday (like I use to do), customizing every map in Illustrator is not practical or even necessary - as long as the map communicates what it's suppose through good cartographic design.

IMO good (possibly great) maps can be created in ArcMap if you have a solid understanding of the data set, cartographic design, and extra time on your hands. A horrilbe map can be created in Illustrator as easily as it can be in any GIS (and in less time!).

I say if a project requires more graphical "communicative" options than are available in your GIS, then use the best tool available for the job at hand.

My two cents. Erin



#12
Nick Springer

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In case anyone hasn't seen it yet, there is a great example of a map done entirely in ArcMap in the Map Gallery

Nick Springer

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


#13
Bob Christensen

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Thanks to everyone for making this a great thread.

One of my primary draws to learning Illustrator was mentioned below - integration within the creative suite. I appreciate the compatability between PS, GL, AA and ID and benefit from those features all the time.

I have two main challenges to deal with:

1. Learning illustrator - though not a minor feat I am sure, fairly straight forward with decent tutorials...

2. Figuring out an effective workflow. This is quite a bit more daunting to me because it means a lot of timely trial and error in combination with learning to use the program. Ideally I would wish for a workflow that operated somewhat like the integration between CS programs - that is, if I must go back and make a change to the map in the GIS those changes do not dictate a 12 hour tweaking session in the CS programs. The benefit of staying in the GIS software is that I can go back and tweak models for improved data output and I do not have to do anything to the layout to quickly get a new map.

Most of my work is for State and Federal agencies and although they are not typically that interested in cartogrphic quality maps I certainly see the benefits in actual communication value. That means a lot to me personally. I am often doing this work as a volunteer so my personal interests are fairly central.

How much do I do in ArcGIS? For example, f I am displaying grids with a 5 class color ramp can i tweak those colors in AI? Do you use color replace like in PS?

Check out the attachment. When I open the ai file exported from ArcGIS it looks like the map has been sliced into several horizontal pieces and all the layers were combined. Why does ai (or ArcGIS export) merge and slice things up this way? Does this not complicate matters? Is it necessary to export each layer as a sperate file then merge them in AI?

---One more thing. What do you think of AICS2 graph and chart capablities? The ArcGIS graph wizard is a disaster and I am currently using excel to make pie charts and PS to match the colors.

Thanks again for your input.

bob

Attached Files



#14
Martin Gamache

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Bob,

To figure out your export issues check the ESRI support site and search under illustrator export. It will spell out for you how to avoid the image segmentation. There are also alot of comments in past message on this board that adress that issue and various workflow issues. But essentially you need to avoid transparency effects in the ARCmap file and rebuild them in Illustrator. If time is an issue for you it may be that a DTP workflow is not for you, especially if you are happy with your current maps and you are not being paid for them. But that is something you must answer for yourself.

You do have to keep in mind that eventhough there are more overlaps than ever between the raster and vector tools in PS and AI...... Primarily Illustrator will be used to edit the vector segment of your exported file and PS the raster background. So a grid exported from Arcmap as TIFF file would need to be edited in PS and not in Illustrator.

Here is my workflow

1. All dataset compiling, analysis, extent, rough labelling, projecting and DEM manipulations are done in ARC or Manifold.
2. Export vector and Text component to an illustrator file.
3. Export background files (shading, hypsometric coloring, density maps, or other raster based output) to composite or multiple TIFF files. Composite and edit in PS if necessary.
4 Compose final map in Illustrator with placed TIFF background file.

If I need anything else from the GIS or to modify stuff I can just re-export it and bring it into my Illustrator file.

Once you get the hang of it it is easy but it does require a new way of thinking about doing things a little bit.

mg

#15
Martin Gamache

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Bob,

Dug this up for you:

polygon dicing removal

stuff

more stuff




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