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Teaching cartography using CorelDraw

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#1
Blake Gumprecht

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Hi all,

I teach at the University of New Hampshire and am contemplating creating a cartography course that uses CorelDraw to create maps. I am writing to solicit opinions on whether this is worthwhile.

We are a small department and haven't offered a cartography class in years because, supposedly, GIS made that no longer necessary. What students learn about map design they learn in our GIS courses, though in my experience most GIS classes teach little about cartographic principles or map design.

I'm interested in creating a cartography class to help overcome that deficiency, but also because there are many situations where GIS isn't the best or most efficient way to create a map.

I am a historical geographer, but was first drawn to geography by a love of maps and have been creating my own maps for years, first using pen and ink, and since the late 1990s using CorelDraw. I've used Adobe Illustrator to make maps but not since the early 1990s (and don't remember much about it). I taught cartography using CorelDraw in graduate school.

It's my impression that most cartographers who use drawing software use Adobe Illustrator. That makes me worry that I wouldn't be giving students the skills they need in the workplace if I teach them cartography using CorelDraw. I'm not sure I'm willing to start all over to learn Illustrator to teach the class. I like CorelDraw very much and see no other reason to change.

What do you think? Would a cartography course taught using CorelDraw have value for our students? Or, if I'm unwilling to convert to Adobe Illustrator would it be a waste of time?

Thanks for your consideration.

Regards,

=====================

Blake Gumprecht
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Geography
University of New Hampshire
102 Huddleston Hall, 73 Main Street
Durham, New Hampshire 03824-2541
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#2
Jacques Gélinas

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Blake,

I have used CorelDraw software in the mid 90's to create maps. It was at the time the best software to create esthetic maps.

Since, I have moved to the Illustrator (Adobe) -MapPublisher (Avenza) combination. I think that if you look into this option you will find that it will best suite the needs of a Cartographic course within a GIS environment.
I would also consider contacting Avenza (makers of MapPublisher) as they might have special education packages.

Regards and good luck.

Jacques Gélinas
cartographer
www.cartesgeo.ca


#3
rudy

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If GIS is already being taught at your institution, why not teach cartography using the GIS tools currently available? This way you wouldn't need to spend time teaching the basics of the software but could instead focus on improving the maps that the students are already producing for other classes.

I could be argued that graphics software is essential for producing high quality cartographic products but how many of your students will be going down that road? I would think that students are more likely to use GIS software in their everyday work than graphics software; hence I think it is more worthwhile for teach them within the confiens of whatever GIS software they are using. I can't speak for other GIS software, but Esri's ArcGIS has a plethora of tools at its disposal that can vastly improve the cartographic aspects of any map.

#4
Hans van der Maarel

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In addition to what has already been said, the principles of good design are the same, no matter what software you use. I would focus on those, and then let the students work with software that they already know and have easy access to, in this case ArcGIS.

However, as you point out, Illustrator is used a lot too in "the real world". Perhaps you can include one session on "other graphics packages" that the students could consider, and then mention and/or show Illustrator, Photoshop and CorelDraw.
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#5
antoniolocandro

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I would agree with the above statements, I think you could teach cartographic desing principles using whatever GIS they use. As mentioned by Hans software doesn't make the principles.

Most persons say GIS maps are ugly, well most are and in fact not due to software limitations but due to lack of underlying principles and to the end need. I would suggest stick to the GIS and consider retouching the final product with other graphics packages. Many workflows start in a GIS environment and end in other sources.

If you use ARCGIS the tools it has can basically create a pretty decent cartographic output without the need to go to other graphic packages, it will still have the GIS map feel but less than other software.

I use QGIS and Inkscape also, but in the US I would almost bet ARCGIS is dominant with ADOBE for cartography with other similar vendors.

#6
David Medeiros

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Hans and Rudy are correct, the principles of good map design are essentially universal and can be taught directly in the GIS environment. However I would argue that actually enacting some of the principles of good design can be problematic outside of graphics software. In some cases it's just too difficult to get the software to do what you want so people give up and stop editing the map.

I think it would benefit your students tremendously if you added even a short section on working with their maps outside of a GIS program. Exporting just one project from Arc to Illustrator and having them refine the presentation there will at least let them know this is an option should they ever end up needed more design control than the GIS provides.

Check the Cartographic Instruction links on my "About" page for an Illustrator Pen Tool exercise to help students learn the basics of Illy and a notes doc on Arc to Illustrator conversion issues.

http://www.sonic.net...Cart/About.html

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#7
David Medeiros

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By the way I want commend you for the effort to teach a GIS related cartography coarse. Contrary the assumptions you mentioned, GIS has only increased the need for real cartographic design education.

Re-reading you original post, I don't think anyone directly answered your specific question RE CorelDraw. I think Illustrator probably makes a better package for this now but if Corel is what you know and have I think it would work fine. Keep in mind that the goal is to pass on universal principles of design. not software specific workflows. Will Corel open an AI or EPS file? If so you should be fine.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#8
dsl

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We used CorelDraw in my Cartography class at Uni. I'm not sure about the most recent versions of ArcGIS (still using 9.2 and 9.3), but you used to be able to export directly to a cdr file. I really like the combination of exporting all my layers separately as pdf files and then opening them in Inkscape. Inkscape is a nice graphic design software a couple of others already mentioned. That probably is an archaic way of doing something compared to MapPublisher and Illustrator though. You can do a lot of cartographic "tricks" with representations in ArcGIS, but I bet a license of illustrator is cheaper than an ArcInfo license for most companies. Your University might have a site-wide license.

Cheers,
David

#9
jblairpdx

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In my experience with teaching cartography at a university, there are a couple important questions to ask.

(1) How much time to I expect my students to take getting up to speed with the graphics application? How much time to I want to take providing tutorial support? I've found that introductory classes often do better if we stick to applying the cartographic principles to where we're compiling our data (i.e. the GIS application). More advanced "studios" provide more breathing room for falling into the intricacies of graphic design functions.

(2) What is the cost (money & staff support) to getting the software on the lab computers? At my department's instructional lab, we already had onsite licensing for the entire Adobe Create Suite, so Illustrator was the natural choice. Our affiliated carto-GIS group also used Illustrator. Other departments in our university used CorelDraw though, based on similar factors.

(3) What is the cost for students to get a copy of the application we're using on their own computer? This isn't mandatory, but many students will express an interest in doing work outside the lab; I've seen it cut both to attendance-avoiders and above-and-beyond star pupils. Even beyond that, the students that take what you teach and run with it will look to use their new knowledge in the future. Can students get access from the school's site license? Does their bookstore or the publisher provide a nice student discount? If we're looking at just using something like ArcGIS, Esri's pretty liberal with their site licenses including students, and their new $100/year personal license is fantastic.

It's been a while since I've used it, but CorelDraw is a perfectly good piece of software for anyone to learn. I'd say go for it, with consideration to the above questions.

#10
Adam Wilbert

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What you're looking for your students to come away with is a better cartographic eye, and that kind of learning is really independent of technique or software. Savvy students will take those lessons and apply them back to their GIS projects on their own. I would argue that it may be beneficial to teach them on software they're likely NOT to use later. It's not meant to be a class on CorelDraw or Illustrator and focusing on the depth of those tools would become a distraction. Besides, a bezier pen in CorelDraw functions similarly to the tool in Illustrator or Inkscape or any number of programs anyway, so those types of production skills would likely translate easily. It's training the eye and the thought process that transcends all of those tools.

You mentioned that you began with pen and ink. In high school drafting, our first project was to fill a 24x36 sheet with perfect 1/8" hand written block lettering, india ink on vellum. Was it tedious and arcane and physically painful? Yes. Was everything being done in AutoCAD at the time? Yes. Was it one of the most beneficial and memorable lessons I took away from high school? Absolutely. I think you could successfully teach a cartography course with little more than pen and paper. Sticking with CorelDraw or moving to Illustrator shouldn't make a difference as long as the material focuses on the principles.

Adam Wilbert

@awilbert
CartoGaia.com
Lynda.com author of "ArcGIS Essential Training"


#11
Blake Gumprecht

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Thanks to everyone who has responded to my query.

I'm a little surprised at how many people discussed cartography only in the context of GIS. I was not planning on teaching cartography as a GIS-based course, though I am hoping to teach students how they can import maps from GIS software into a program like CorelDraw to improve the design.

If I create the course, the focus of the class will be on teaching students map design, using CorelDraw (or Illustrator) as the main tool for creating maps. The focus would be on design principles, but students would also need to become reasonably proficient at CorelDraw (or Illustrator) in order to be able to make maps with the software.

It is my belief that GIS is not the best way to create many types of maps. Do others disagree? I am a historical geographer and create many maps in CorelDraw as part of my research. To make those maps using GIS would be much more difficult, I would think, since the spatial information is not readily available in digital form and since I'm not using the same base map information over and over. To create a location map or simple choropleth map on a historical theme would seem to me to be much easier to create in something like CorelDraw than using GIS software.

If you think I'm wrong, please tell me. I took several GIS courses in graduate school, but have never used GIS since because it never seemed appropriate for the work I do.

Regards,

Blake Gumprecht

#12
Derek Tonn

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Hi Blake!

We've given in on most of our vector work and are predominantly drawing in Adobe Illustrator now. However, I'll go to my grave swearing that CorelDraw is STILL the superior vector design tool on a PC/Windows platform. We've run head-to-head tests on projects in the past, and our guys can almost always create the illustrations about 10-15% faster in CorelDraw vs. AI (even including the time to convert the file to .ai format at the end).

AI is more powerful! However, you need a third/fourth hand and about a 1,000-page manual to use it efficiently. :) CorelDraw is *MUCH* more intuitive and, while not as powerful/flexible, has handled the creation of just about any type of illustrated map design project I've thrown at it the past ~18 years.

If you want to train students on "industry standard software," have them use AI. If you want to have them draw more efficiently in vector and thumb your nose at all the Mac-elitist snobs out there, have them use Corel (since CorelDraw is no longer offered/supported for the Mac OS). :)
Derek Tonn
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mapformation, LLC

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

#13
frax

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I think you can can teach all the principles of good cartography using current GIS software. You may not be able to get the same level of polish though, but creating legends and similar things are so much easier. You would get 90% of what you would could achieve in Draw/Illustrator. I would argue that it is not worth it to have to get students to learn a totally new software package to get that extra 10% - as long as the principles of preparing good maps is there.
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#14
Derek Tonn

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This is a little bit me simply stirring the pot, and a serious question at the same time:

Why does one need to know how to use (or use, period) GIS software in order to learn how to properly/ideally create a map?

I understand that is where most of the industry is right now! I'm just throwing that out there as a talking point for the discussion...since maps have existed for hundreds (thousands?) of years. And GIS/software wasn't around for the vast majority of that time.
Derek Tonn
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#15
David Medeiros

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This is a little bit me simply stirring the pot, and a serious question at the same time:

Why does one need to know how to use (or use, period) GIS software in order to learn how to properly/ideally create a map?

I understand that is where most of the industry is right now! I'm just throwing that out there as a talking point for the discussion...since maps have existed for hundreds (thousands?) of years. And GIS/software wasn't around for the vast majority of that time.


The answer is they don't of course, cartography when viewed as "map design" or anything similar is software and platform independent (and I guess media independent). Maps can be made in any number of ways outside a GIS.

The reality is, cartography as stand alone education and training on map making is almost non existent. The geography department, the natural home of map making training has largely abandoned traditional cartography in favor of GIS mapping. I don't think its hard to make arguments for GISs use in geographic analysis or geographic information science, it has become indispensable in exploring and understanding our world through the visual display and analysis of spatial information. But it focuses not on the sharing or communicating of that information but its storage, manipulation, and "display".

My personal opinion is that cartography was always something of a specialist practice even within geography and there were probably many geographers who were all too glad to have a program that helped them shed the perceived pomp of "design" in science based map making. GIS seemed like it required no special design training, it made maps for you. Cart training gave way to GIS training. Now as the value of cartographic best practices and information design have become more obvious some cartographic instruction has creeped back into geography departments but it goes where the map making now occurs, GIS programs. It's a natural partnership ship in many regards but there precious few GIS practitioners who really know anything abut map design and are capable of passing on not just the techniques for good map making but the reasons why it matters to analytical based mapping at all.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 





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