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Take me to the next level

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#1
Thad

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Hi everyone,
I recently graduated with my masters in geography (undergraduate is in geography as well) and have found steady work as a gis contractor. I'm also doing part time consulting which I hope will develop into more of a full time business.

The attached map is developed to appeal to forestry consultants which are in need of gis work in the area. The map is supposed to show all the different variables/layers of information I can display in order to help the forestry consultants make better decisions.

My Problem (aside from my lack of cartographic design experience :( ) is the map looks boring and dull. What is the best way for me to take the design of this map to the next level? I want something clean, professional and looks like I made it in 2011 not 1995.

Whats my first step to enhancing my design skills vs. someone who just creates maps from arcmap?

Thanks and I look forward to everyone's responses.

Thad

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#2
jrat

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One quick way is to look through the map gallery on this forum. Look not only at what other people are doing but at the questions and comments posted by other forum members. There have also been so great books on cartography and cartographic design discussed on this forum. Use a critical eye when looking at maps in publications and try to reproduce the techniques that you feel convey the message of the map. If you came to this forum looking for a recipe for great maps I don't think you are going to find it. You might also want to start training yourself in other software (illustrator, Photoshop ect.). The more you expand your skills the better your products will be.

#3
Thad

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Thanks for the reply jrat.

I think my initial post came off as lazy, and that's not what I intended. I have been lurking in the forum for a few weeks now and have looked over all the maps.

I guess I was looking for some direction, which I think is photoshop / doing more reading.

Appreciate you input!

I'll try to do some revisions and keep posting and maybe get more critique as I advance.

#4
natcase

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Rather than one big map, show lots of little sections like what you show on the bottom. There's way more variables you can emphasize: land ownership/Parcel liens, transportation infrastructure, hydrology (both flowlines and basins), relief both in terms of contours and in terms of slope, tree species differntiation... I'm sure you can think of plenty. In each case, explore what the best way of showing just that information is, and execute that, with the smallest amount of reference base linework you can get away with.

That's really all good functional thematic map design is: being clear on what you need to show, finding the clearest way of showing that, and keeping just enough reference map linework in place so users know where they are.

Nat Case
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#5
Charles Syrett

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After you create new versions of these maps, you may want to present them in a before-after format. A lot of potential clients don't really get the value of cartography until they see the difference between a default GIS display and a thoughtfully designed map that communicates something very specific, and with clarity.

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#6
David Medeiros

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I like Nat's idea to do all small multiples and Charles' idea to do a before and after (default GIS vs refined output).

Just focusing on map aesthetics I'd say you need to tone down the background saturation on all the images but especially the main map. For the main map which looks to just be a reference elevation map I would use a single color gradient for the hypsometry. The default "atlas" colors are very distracting and don't really reveal the landscape. You might also consider no color gradient, just a light hill shade.

The contour lines and labels are also very prominent and distracting, again covering up the real landscape. Use a thinner line (maybe .25pt) and a lighter color perhaps. You'll need to experiment with this especially if you lighten the background. The contour labels should be in the same color as the contour line. The labels could also be smaller by a point or two (or three) and I would reduce the labeling to half as many. You might also consider using a less detailed contour data set (either generalize this one or create a new one from a down sampled DEM). There is a lot of contour detail here and it seems to get pretty confused looking in a few spots. If you have access to it take a look Imhof's "Cartographic Relief Presentation" for more info on hill shading and contour visualizations.

Your map is landscape but the tree stand is really portrait or nearly square. You could change the frame aspect and layout to create a large square frame for the reference map on the left (scaled in tighter to the stand itself) and the three small multiples on the right, balanced so they fill the vertical space along the main frame edge (no hanging empty space as with the lower right corner of current map).

For the tree stand boundary I would get rid of the inner pattern and use a simple border and transparent fill, probably in a dark gray or maybe even a green, but not full black.

Also consider adding some other reference feature to the main map like roads and rivers.

edited to add: also second jrats recommendation to look for examples of map work you like and emulate what works for you. This is really one of the best methods for learning your own style believe it or not. Good luck!

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#7
Clark Geomatics

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Thad, don't worry too much about being stuck in 1995 - there is a way out!

Previous comments are all on the mark and David's suggestions will improve your map significantly. One thing that strikes me is the lack of information on the map. This type of product, in my mind, is more about the merging of technical information with specific map themes (soil map, satellite, color IR, etc.). You have to keep your audience front and forward in your mind - the forestry consultants - and suit the product to their needs. For example, when was the satellite image taken? IR imagery is heavily biased by seasonality, moisture, etc. What type of soil is the tree stand on (besides a pink polygon)? Do you need to have such a large map extent for the topography when the tree stand only covers about 5% of the area (see Nat's comments).

It's interesting that forestry consultants would need education on GIS seeing as how they were some of the first adopters of the technology (at least here in Canada).

Good luck!
Cheers,

Jeff Clark
Principal
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#8
Gretchen Peterson

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I'm envisioning an electronic flipbook. Each dataset is showcased on each page, set off by a very dark background color scheme (dark gray or dark blue maybe) and white (or bright) text on the top or bottom of each page that explains the variable in detail. This would be, essentially, a marketing brochure with maps! A quick search gives at least some likely software candidates for producing such a thing: FlipViewer and FlipBuilder.

Now, that's just one idea. One potential pitfall is that it might be TOO arty for forestry consultants. Folks in the environmental field sometimes value more low-key materials. You'd have to make that call of course. A lower-key methodology would be to present them with a single-page layout (as you have shown us here) divided into a grid. The datasets that need more room can be put in the bigger spaces, and simpler datasets could be put in the smaller spaces. Here are some grid references to check out: Developing the Grid that Supports Your Design and Wikipedia. If you add more than just the 4 maps that you have shown us then perhaps you could consider a large-format page size that the forestry consultants might feel worthy of pinning on their wall.

#9
Thad

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WOW! I never expected this great of a response or that it would be so thoughtful and precise. I thought this forum was semi-dead, but it definitely is not!

This is exactly what I needed, some direction.

Gretchen : I really dig the idea of the grid. For some reason I had discarded organizing by a grid as outdated... but that just proves me as a moron :)

Clark: Good tips on adding more information, I was over simplifying. Interesting that you would mention GIS and forestry consultants. From what I can gather many of the consultants here are small companies with only 2-3 people and therefore either haven't invested in GIS or more typically have haphazardly made their own maps which are ugly. Additionally, they lack the ability to organize their large imagery datasets and preforming meaningful GIS analysis.

David: great tip on saturation and background color scheme, noted. Also on the framing, which I knew needed tweaking, but now know how to do it!

Charles: great idea. I have some bad maps in mind already to compare against:)

Nat: Fantastic. This really helps me think about my presentation more clearly. Before I was just cramming in everything I could. This will really improve the efficiency of the map.


Give me a few days and maybe some of the weekend and I will implement these suggestions/laws (:)) of map making. Can't tell everyone how much this helps me.

Thanks!

#10
ness1216

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Also, in the bottom right, research is spelled wrong.

#11
Thad

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Been a bit slow is my progress. Here's my what I have finished thus far.

Plan on filling down below with 6 more boxes. including more lidar analysis, imagery and maybe some terrestrial laser scanning stuff.

Design is largely influenced by Vignelli design canon.

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#12
Thad

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Alright. Put some serious work into this guy. Using what you guys suggested, I think this is a huge improvement.

What does everyone think? Can you think of anything that is seriously missing? Some example that would really hit home? I'm going to blow it up pretty large and send it around, so if text seems smallish that's why.

I know i'm missing a a comparison - still thinking about that.

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#13
DaveB

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Looks pretty good.
2 things that kind of jump out at me are the very thick black line around everything and between the title and the maps, and all the different extents in the various maps. I wonder if it would be better to make the map extents the same, it owuld be easier to compare them that way.
Dave Barnes
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#14
Thad

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Looks pretty good.
2 things that kind of jump out at me are the very thick black line around everything and between the title and the maps, and all the different extents in the various maps. I wonder if it would be better to make the map extents the same, it owuld be easier to compare them that way.


Thanks Dave.

Yeah, the map extents was something that I thought about. If I have a chance I will probably go back and re-make the maps. But in some instances, (site map for instance) you need a larger extent, although I could do an inset.

Let me try and tweak the black and re-post.




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