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Learning More about Cartography & GIS

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#1
Ann

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Hi Everyone,

This is my first post and let me say that I am so glad to have found this forum.

I am a successful art director (an advanced graphic designer who supervises other graphic designers and develops design strategy for clients).

I already create maps and info graphics. Have been designing info graphics for a zillion years, but I've only been creating maps for a year or so. I sort of "fell" into it. A client in the oil industry had needs -- I filled them.

I love it!!

I want to learn more, I want to learn about GIS and map making software and everything else. . . what else is there?

I'm I'm not your typical 'designer' I have a Bachelor's of Science from Northwestern in a completely unrelated field, I actually "fell" into graphic design about 15 years ago. I had a minor in art and just happened to be very good at design.

I think what I like about Cartography is that it requires so much more than just my visual skills -- it engages rest of my brain as well.

I guess what I am asking here is -- where do I start? Tell me about different aspects of cartography. Are there books? Should I take classes. In exchange I can contribute design feedback and design software tips to the forum.

Please, fill me in.

Thank you. Ann

#2
Teeds

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Ann:

I fell into cartography in a way myself ... digitally at least. I worked for a civil engineer in a past life, became an architect/general contractor and am now the president of a group that owns two recreation areas with lots of trails. Back in the day, I made many 4 color overlay maps the hard way ... with pen and ink.

All that said, I bit the bullet and purchased a copy of ArcGIS 9.3 and waded into the digital world because of my need for decent trail maps. Between that software and my Garmin GPS, I have learned how to really get into digital trouble. I am starting to futz with the resulting files in CS3 to make them more appealing visually. I've tried to learn from what people post in the Map Gallery. There are maps in there that are light years better than what I am producing at the moment.

As far as books go, ESRI has a bunch, but the generally seem to go far beyond "just" making a map. Not that all the data crunching isn't important, but I am still trying to get a reasonably attractive product out of the plotter.
Tony Eeds aka Teeds aka Dad aka Grandpa

Good Roads bring Bad People
Bad Roads bring Good People

#3
DaveB

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Welcome!

There have been a few threads that might pertain to your questions. I found a couple that mention some useful books. See books and more books. :)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#4
Derek Tonn

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You sound a lot like me, Ann!

I have a B.A. in Business (Marketing/Management) and an MBA in Management, and was three art history classes away from an Art (Graphic Design) degree as an undergrad as well. Just what you'd expect from someone who makes maps for a living...right?! :)

I think for me, I've always mentally broken maps into two categories: Maps as Science, and Maps as Art. Science is a poor term to use, but basically what I mean is maps that are focused much more on technical accuracy and the speed/efficiency in which they are created than they are focused on aesthetics. Maps as art, on the other hand, are much more focused upon the beauty of the overall design.

A good map, in my opinion, will address BOTH "science" and "art!" That said, most of us graphic designers were trained much more heavily on the art side of the pendulum, while a lot of the people going through the cartography/GIS programs are much more-heavily trained on the technical aspects of design creation. Using software and databases to plot points, draw shapes, et al. If you doubt me, just look at all the "brewers" or paint-by-numbers tools that have crept into the industry that take a number of the important aesthetic decisions and individual creativity out of the process.

As more of an "artist" (even though I never completed that B.A. degree), I don't really care if something is off a few feet from actual, or if every bend in a river is depicted accurately! What I care about is whether the end-user of the design can intuitively understand where they are and where they are trying to get to, with a sense of how to get there (and how long it should take). I care about contrast and the balance/harmony of positive and negative space. I care about trying to balance beauty and detail against simplicity and clarity.

I guess my own best advice to you would be to attend a NACIS conference...to get a great deal more exposure to the "science" of cartography while also rubbing elbows with a few other "artists" in the industry. Don't feel pressure to change, however, or assume that because you don't bring a cartography/GIS background to the table, that you are somehow inferior in your ability to produce map designs! You simply have different skills than many of the others in our field. My favorite quote of all-time:

"We're all experts and we're all idiots...it just depends upon what is being discussed at any given point in time."

You probably already know as much or more about the "art" of map design than a lot of people who've been in the field/business for years! That said, just remember that you (like me) don't know 10% of what many others know on a lot of the topics surrounding the "science" of the industry. But that's okay! We all have our place in the big, wonderful world of map design...as long as we respect and acknowledge what we don't know, while continually working to hone and refine our skills.

Sorry for the novel! I hope that helps.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#5
Fran├žois Goulet

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Sorry for the novel! I hope that helps.


We love your novels Derek... always a pleasure to read! ;)

I have studied engineering and got a B.A. and M.A in Medieval History before turning to cartography/GIS with a GIS certificate. Our different background is what makes our different maps so different and interesting. We all have different views and that the best thing that could happen to the field.

The book section and the map gallery as mentioned before is a great way to start.

#6
Ann

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Ann:

I fell into cartography in a way myself ... digitally at least. Not that all the data crunching isn't important, but I am still trying to get a reasonably attractive product out of the plotter.



Teeds: Thanks for your story. Remember that design is about play. Keep playing and your maps will become beautiful.

Actually the best way to become a better designer -- is to learn to draw. It teaches you to see.

Ann

#7
Ann

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A good map, in my opinion, will address BOTH "science" and "art!"


Sorry for the novel! I hope that helps.


Not a novel. Great advice -- thank you.

I agree that a good map addresses both art and science. That's why I want to learn more about the science of maps. I think there is a fine balance between the two -- I map need to be accurate, but it also needs to be usable and readable. Design should enhance those things.

I am into form over function.

I will try to get myself to a conference to get my feet wet. Once again, thank you so much and I will be in touch -- no doubt.

Ann




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