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#1
François Goulet

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Hi!

So, I'm trying to assemble an in-house document on cartographic best practices (mainly because some people here had their cartographic training in the 80's (if not the 70's) or are from a different background that GIS/Cartography and learned on the fly).

I had a couple of "cartographic frustration" lately at work: Old school methods, badly designed projects, budget-induced shortcuts that resulted in more work in the end, ...

I had to take from Freehand to ArcGIS elements from maps that have been scale at 95% and then shrink by another 2% or so (no one really knows) for best fitting the layout (so the initial 1:100,000 scale became 1:107,410 - rounded at 1:105,000 on the scale bar) only to be asked later why it didn't perfectly align with the other features in Arc...

I had to modify several maps with at least 50 layers (some datasets were 100-200Mb) with at least 5 or 6 different projections all - of course - untrimmed and reprojected on the fly... it took at least 2-3 minutes just to refresh the map every times I moved of paned in it (imagine 1:20,000 contour lines covering a quarter of the province of Quebec on a 1:75,000 map (our client love hyper-detail... :( ) covering only some hundred square kilometres that have to be reprojected)...

I'm not the best cartographer in the world, but I think that my methods and knowledge have been tested in my last 6 years of works from several major companies here in Quebec and I always did good. I'm open to modify all my practices if it means to be better and faster of course.

So, I'm looking for tips, tricks, "rules", do's and don'ts, ..., for best mapping. I'd love to buy for my company Gretchen Peterson's book "GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design" but of course, they don't see the need and I can't afford it myself for now.

I perfectly know that there's not only one way to make a map, but there's certainly things that should be made to make every else's job easier

Something like "Scales should have a rounded scale (i.e. 1:1,000 - 1:25,000 or 1:24,000 if you work with imperial units). How often have I seen maps with scale like 1:7800 or 1:1680 rounded at 1:1700 in the scale bar). How do you approximate distance with a scale of 1 cm = 78 meters??

Or that taking half an hour to trim and reproject your data will save your hours later just in refresh time?

I think that having the input from the community will help me a lot...

Thanks!!!

#2
David Medeiros

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There are a number of similar books out there on modern cartographic best practices. I'm not sure why Gretchen's book seems to be priced so much higher than the others. I'd like to add her book to my collection as well, but it's just too expensive to justify right now

Cynthia Brewer (of color brewer fame) wrote "Designing better MAPS". It's a pretty good resource though it spends too much time on color choices (as you would expect). "Making MAPS" by John Krygier and Denis Wood is a bit simpler but hits the fundamentals. It's focussed on GIS map makers but the lessons apply across the board.

A really good book for fundamental best practices that I picked up a while ago is "Cartography, an Introduction" by the British Cartographic Society. It's a small pocket book that really focuses on the fundamental questions of what makes good cartography and has a great section at the end on what to do to improve your maps at the end of the process based on how much time you have (5, 15 or 50 minutes).

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#3
Charles Syrett

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Francois, there are a lot of different questions and suggestions in your post, and I'm not sure what you want to address first.

Much of what you've described just sounds like all-in-a-day's-work for mapmaking. Ever since I started making maps, it's always been like that. You have to compile all kinds of sources together, most of which are not scaled/projected properly, and then make a shiny new product! (Doesn't it just make your heart race?)

The sources may be old paper maps, or FreeHand files done by a graphic designer in the 90s, or TIGER files based on linework originally digitized in the 80s by a hung-over technician using one of those old hockey-puck style digitizers. :rolleyes:

Texts, such as those listed by David, are always useful to some extent. (I'd have to add "Cartographic Relief Presentation" by Imhof.) But I don't think any quoting of authorities will ever convince a client or boss. Only a reasoned argument that ties to the bottom line will work.

Your idea of a resource within CartoTalk for cartographic practices sounds interesting. Maybe it could be located in the Resources section. People could just post whatever useful how-tos they come up with. But it would have to be properly organized.

That's all I have time to write, just now. Too busy plowing through mutually contradictory sources to create maps for several clients, all of whom are pacing the floor and glancing at their watches! B)

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

#4
François Goulet

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Thanks for the suggestions (I forgot I bought "Cartography, an Introduction" last year!)

I know my case is not unique and I'll have to deal again with huge datasets with different projections in the same map it's just that every time me or one of my colleague come with a suggestion, we're been told "We always did it like that and never had any problem" to which I'd like to - but couldn't - respond "That's because you always look at the map once it's finished and didn't have to deal with it during the creation process". Every cartographer has to deal with colour choices, text placement, etc. I know that. Nevertheless, I think that creating a map with a 1:1,435 scale doesn't make any sense, but I've seen it.

But, if Eduard Imhof could write such a good paper as Positioning Names on Maps, there should be for the rest, ever though I can't force anybody to read it ;)

Maybe I only miss my "old" days as chief cartographer... mouhahahaha! <_<

#5
christine.skl

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Francois,

I think Carto Talk is already such a guide. I am a very young GISer/Cartographer taught by a cartograher trained in 70's and I find CartoTalk as the best resource for my doubts. Maybe it would be good to go through every post in map gallery and choose a handful of examples (which I am planning to do in near future)?
Christine

#6
Charles Syrett

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Nevertheless, I think that creating a map with a 1:1,435 scale doesn't make any sense, but I've seen it.


There's nothing wrong, in my view, with such a scale. Random sampling of map scales from my old National Geographic Atlas:

1:6,930,000
1:2,980,000
1:9,997,000

etc.
:)

Charles Syrett
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#7
David Medeiros

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Texts, such as those listed by David, are always useful to some extent. (I'd have to add "Cartographic Relief Presentation" by Imhof.)


I left it off as it didn't seem to fit his question about basic best practices but yes this a fantastic (if not dense) text on map making (I have two! :D ). I'd add to that most of Edward Tufte's works on information design as well. I like the idea of a tips & tricks section or thread in the forum.

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#8
Dennis McClendon

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Though I like the idea of a Best Practices Guide, I'm not really sure that oddball scales are much of a consideration in the age of the computer—so long as the actual scale is written somewhere. Whenever I modify a map from one of my standard basemaps, I put a note just off the page that it's "80% of such-and-such basemap." (I like 80% and 125% because, as neat reciprocals, they can be returned to the original without rounding error.) When I've forgotten, I can usually figure it out by looking at the line weights or comparing a particular feature.

But what sounds odd may not be totally irrational. I do a lot of street maps at 1:28,512. Why? Because they're mostly in the West, where section lines will be the basic framework for lots of things, and that's 160 points to a mile, so I can move things rather neatly by typing in 40 or 80 points.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
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#9
Charles Syrett

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Very interesting -- I've been doing the 80% / 125% thing for years as well, but I hardly ever set my units to points (except for web-based mapping), so never did that other trick. For scaling, I always try to work the map scale into the file name; e.g., Toronto250K.fh11. Comes in really handy when searching for already-done work to scavenge. :)

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

Though I like the idea of a Best Practices Guide, I'm not really sure that oddball scales are much of a consideration in the age of the computer—so long as the actual scale is written somewhere. Whenever I modify a map from one of my standard basemaps, I put a note just off the page that it's "80% of such-and-such basemap." (I like 80% and 125% because, as neat reciprocals, they can be returned to the original without rounding error.) When I've forgotten, I can usually figure it out by looking at the line weights or comparing a particular feature.

But what sounds odd may not be totally irrational. I do a lot of street maps at 1:28,512. Why? Because they're mostly in the West, where section lines will be the basic framework for lots of things, and that's 160 points to a mile, so I can move things rather neatly by typing in 40 or 80 points.






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