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Critique of School Map

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Poll: Rate the map (9 member(s) have cast votes)

How would you rate the cartographic quality of the current map?

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  2. B (2 votes [40.00%])

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  3. C (3 votes [60.00%])

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#1
PhilU

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Hi,

 

I'm looking for a cartographic critique of this map of school boundaries in the Provo (Utah) School District and suggestions for improvement. Don't hold back. An initial grade, let's say A to F, would be interesting for the current design. Then tear into it! I intend for the new map I'm going to create to have a different feel so it will be easily distinguished from the current one. This map will hang in schools throughout the district to help staff and parents identify school boundaries and school building locations. Here are some other considerations that may influence your suggestions:

 

  - There is a companion website that also helps staff and parents identify school boundaries: maps.provo.org

  - Provo is next to mountains on the east side. Homes there rest in the foothills. Obviously I haven't used hillshading on the current map, but it's an option.

  - There are three tiers of schools on this map. Elementary schools are the prominent ones. The two middle schools and two high schools share the same boundary. You can see it as the orange/green line that splits the city with some notation on the south end of the line. Orange and green correspond to the rival high school colors. The elementary school area colors are random.

  - Size is currently 24x36. I could enlarge it to 30x42.

  - I have aerial image that could be used.

  - I'm using Arcmap 10.2.2. I don't have another graphics package to export to.

 

Thanks for your help!

 

Phil Uhl

GIS Administrator

Provo City

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#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Right off the bat I'd recommend showing the schools in the map with a symbol and their name, use different symbols for different types of schools (elementary, middle, high). The same thing goes for a lot of the entries under "Other" in the index, but for every one of them ask yourself whether it's necesarry to show that particular item on a map intended to help people pick out a school. Water reclamation plant? Unless it's a prominent feature in Provo used for local wayfinding I would argue it's a bit irrelevant for this particular map.


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#3
loximuthal

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Ditto on Hans' suggestion for school symbolization and naming.  You might want to screen back the hydro a bit; it dominates the school boundaries visually.  At this point the only features I see are streets and anonymous buildings (the schools?).  If you are going to have parks and 'other' in the index they should also be on the map.  I would also rename the street index 'Index' since it covers more than streets, plus move the schools to a more prominent location within the index, since that is what the map is all about.  One small thing is the label for '800 W' overlaps a building, so you may want to shift that one a bit.


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#4
tangnar

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I agree that the schools and school districts are the subject of the map, so make them the most prominent and identifiable. I wouldn't have figured out very quickly what the green/orange line down the middle was if you hadn't have told me, so I'd find a way to make that clear.  Maybe a legend that goes along with the index?

 

I personally don't think a hillshade or aerial is necessary.  It might look pretty but wouldn't add any function and might actually take away from function. I like the simplicity of it.



#5
razornole

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I agree, icons and names will really make the schools pop, and everything else that was mentioned above.  I would also try to figure out a color coordination with the school labels so that they someone match the field they are in.  There are several labels that overlap features that could be nudged/moved so they are more strategically placed rather then automatically generated by a mindless computer program.

 

I am confused by the title.  Why Elementary School Boundaries?  I believe you show middle and high schools as well.  Provo School District is singular and you are showing more then one district. 

 

North arrow should go with the scale bar, if you even need it.  I would also clip the river so that it doesn't run right through your date of the map.

 

I would use all caps for UTAH LAKE and then title case for sub features such as Provo Bay.

 

There is one district without a fill, is that on purpose?

 

All and all it looks pretty good and clean,

kru


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#6
PhilU

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I agree that the schools and school districts are the subject of the map, so make them the most prominent and identifiable. I wouldn't have figured out very quickly what the green/orange line down the middle was if you hadn't have told me, so I'd find a way to make that clear.  Maybe a legend that goes along with the index?

 

I personally don't think a hillshade or aerial is necessary.  It might look pretty but wouldn't add any function and might actually take away from function. I like the simplicity of it.

 

You hit on the problem of overlapping polygons and how to make them all prominent enough, even if one category has to dominate (or does it?). I agree that my green/orange line wasn't a particularly successful solution. What if I were to make the elementary school shades themed for the high school they feed to? For example, one side of the city would utilize blue/green shades while the other side uses red-orange-yellow shades? My index is the generic one I use for my road map. It's apparent if I want to improve this map I'll have to improve the index and add a legend. Thanks!



#7
PhilU

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Right off the bat I'd recommend showing the schools in the map with a symbol and their name, use different symbols for different types of schools (elementary, middle, high). The same thing goes for a lot of the entries under "Other" in the index, but for every one of them ask yourself whether it's necesarry to show that particular item on a map intended to help people pick out a school. Water reclamation plant? Unless it's a prominent feature in Provo used for local wayfinding I would argue it's a bit irrelevant for this particular map.

 

Thanks, Hans. I like the idea of the schools being symbolized more distinctly by category, and probably more prominently in general if I inferred correctly. If my goal is to help staff and parents "find your school and boundaries (related to your home location)" then I shouldn't be letting them sit so far down in the hierarchy. I hadn't really thought about all the noise that the index brings with all its entries. How do you feel about having wayfinding or reference points on the map at all? If I were to keep such points on the map, I'm wondering if showing their locations by text only would be effective rather than using a symbol?  



#8
PhilU

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Ditto on Hans' suggestion for school symbolization and naming.  You might want to screen back the hydro a bit; it dominates the school boundaries visually.  At this point the only features I see are streets and anonymous buildings (the schools?).  If you are going to have parks and 'other' in the index they should also be on the map.  I would also rename the street index 'Index' since it covers more than streets, plus move the schools to a more prominent location within the index, since that is what the map is all about.  One small thing is the label for '800 W' overlaps a building, so you may want to shift that one a bit.

 

Thanks for the feedback. I'll screen back the hydro like you suggested. Do you like the other colors and/or the buffalo tinted boundaries OK? Yes, I now see the index is a lot for this map. The annotation and the index are taken from a basic road map and I'm guilty of not making adjustments. I'll make some changes there for the next iteration.



#9
PhilU

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I agree, icons and names will really make the schools pop, and everything else that was mentioned above.  I would also try to figure out a color coordination with the school labels so that they someone match the field they are in.  There are several labels that overlap features that could be nudged/moved so they are more strategically placed rather then automatically generated by a mindless computer program.

 

I am confused by the title.  Why Elementary School Boundaries?  I believe you show middle and high schools as well.  Provo School District is singular and you are showing more then one district. 

 

North arrow should go with the scale bar, if you even need it.  I would also clip the river so that it doesn't run right through your date of the map.

 

I would use all caps for UTAH LAKE and then title case for sub features such as Provo Bay.

 

There is one district without a fill, is that on purpose?

 

All and all it looks pretty good and clean,

kru

 

Thanks for the tip on the title. I missed that one. You're right. If I'm showing the boundaries of all the categories of schools in the Provo School District the title should reflect that. I'm curious if you are suggesting a north arrow isn't necessary for the map? Would you put it there? I'm OK with removing it, or the scale bar, completely depending on what is kosher. As for the lake labeling, do you like the use of a more script-like font? I think the one district you see without a fill is probably one where I tried to go really light on it to differentiate it from the adjacent polygons. It may not show up as well in the pdf as in the printed version.



#10
David Medeiros

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I read most of the suggestions above, and agree with all. I'll add my 2 cents below and apologize if I'm repeating anything that was already mentioned:

 

Tone down the prominence of the hydrology. The fill color could be a little lighter but the stroke for the shorelines especially is too bright.

 

Bring the school districts up in the visual hierarchy. The district polygon colors are ok, but I'd expect to see some major labeling for each district or school in the map since that's the purpose of the map. Don't make the map reader go to the legend to determine where each school is.

 

The heavy green/orange school color line down the center of the map is distracting to me. I'd look to keep the symbol for schools of the same styling here. You could re create the separation of hemispheres here by giving one side warm colors, and the other cool colors. I understand the desire to incorporate the school colors but it may not work out in terms of color balance on the map.

 

If the building footprints are important I'd beef them up by giving them a solid fill and prominent labels. Currently they blend in with the other linework.

 

The roads layers seems to have a number of orphaned (or unconnected) roads or trails. I'd remove them from the map for clarity.

 

There is a thin black line running around the edges of the districts and into the water that I assume is the city boundary. It would make more sense visually if it were a dash-dot line. Possibly thicker but lighter grey. The main issue is what it looks like in the lake. You could also easily get rid of it since the school boundaries match it.

 

The map balance is off and overlay heavy to the west side of the map. This is due in part to the heavy blue color of the water and the empty white areas around Provo. I would remedy this by giving the water a lighter blue (already suggested) and adding a very light grey or other neutral tone to the rest of the map to give it more body. I would also extend at least the major highways out beyond Provo to the edge of the frame. You're creating an island effect with just Provo roads showing and no context to the rest of the geography.

 

Not sure of the size here, but the type feels small. Beef up the label sizes for at least the most prominent features. And double check for label/line overlaps. Move labels off lines where ever possible. I know labeling is difficult in Arc but if you use the Maplex engine or convert to annotation you can make a lot of small adjustments.

 

The index, which I'm sure is also quite a chore in Arc, needs some extra space above the headings and maybe a little more between each line.

 

Simpler N arrow, place N arrow with scale... then get rid of N arrow ; )

 

You might think about other information you can include here like addresses or contact info for each school. Map data sources, map author credits etc.

 

I hope that helps. Feel free to ignore any and all of it! : ) Good luck.


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#11
PhilU

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I read most of the suggestions above, and agree with all. I'll add my 2 cents below and apologize if I'm repeating anything that was already mentioned:

 

Tone down the prominence of the hydrology. The fill color could be a little lighter but the stroke for the shorelines especially is too bright.

 

Bring the school districts up in the visual hierarchy. The district polygon colors are ok, but I'd expect to see some major labeling for each district or school in the map since that's the purpose of the map. Don't make the map reader go to the legend to determine where each school is.

 

The heavy green/orange school color line down the center of the map is distracting to me. I'd look to keep the symbol for schools of the same styling here. You could re create the separation of hemispheres here by giving one side warm colors, and the other cool colors. I understand the desire to incorporate the school colors but it may not work out in terms of color balance on the map.

 

If the building footprints are important I'd beef them up by giving them a solid fill and prominent labels. Currently they blend in with the other linework.

 

The roads layers seems to have a number of orphaned (or unconnected) roads or trails. I'd remove them from the map for clarity.

 

There is a thin black line running around the edges of the districts and into the water that I assume is the city boundary. It would make more sense visually if it were a dash-dot line. Possibly thicker but lighter grey. The main issue is what it looks like in the lake. You could also easily get rid of it since the school boundaries match it.

 

The map balance is off and overlay heavy to the west side of the map. This is due in part to the heavy blue color of the water and the empty white areas around Provo. I would remedy this by giving the water a lighter blue (already suggested) and adding a very light grey or other neutral tone to the rest of the map to give it more body. I would also extend at least the major highways out beyond Provo to the edge of the frame. You're creating an island effect with just Provo roads showing and no context to the rest of the geography.

 

Not sure of the size here, but the type feels small. Beef up the label sizes for at least the most prominent features. And double check for label/line overlaps. Move labels off lines where ever possible. I know labeling is difficult in Arc but if you use the Maplex engine or convert to annotation you can make a lot of small adjustments.

 

The index, which I'm sure is also quite a chore in Arc, needs some extra space above the headings and maybe a little more between each line.

 

Simpler N arrow, place N arrow with scale... then get rid of N arrow ; )

 

You might think about other information you can include here like addresses or contact info for each school. Map data sources, map author credits etc.

 

I hope that helps. Feel free to ignore any and all of it! : ) Good luck.

 

Great stuff, David. Thanks for all the input. I'm afraid many of the posts today have exposed several aspects of my map that have at their sources my own laziness. Yeah, I left Provo as an island when I could have added the highway and street system for the cities on the north and south ends (mountains east). Granted, I can't spend a lot of time on my maps, but I am enjoying this exercise and I hope it will help me to make better decisions on the fly in the future. I'm going to implement as many of your recommendations, and those from the others, that I can then repost the results. Then begin refining again. I don't take the time to do this sort of thing very often so I intend to see it through. No north arrow, eh? Done!

 

Your profile says you that you like woodworking and wooden boats. I was looking at some websites for wooden boat building classes in Maine and Michigan just the other day. Sounds great. Wish I could send myself out to one of those classes.  Thanks again for the tips.



#12
David Medeiros

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Well, this is just how I would approach the map. You have to account for your own design tastes. There are few truly hard rules here, but some things just make more sense then others. The best approach is to find maps that you like and emulate what you think works from them.

 

I'm being a little silly about the N arrow, but it isn't really neccesary assuming the primary map users here are residents of Provo, who hopefully know their local geography.

 

Wooden boat building is surprisingly like map making in many ways... and the best part is both arts are great for self teaching.


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#13
Hans van der Maarel

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Thanks, Hans. I like the idea of the schools being symbolized more distinctly by category, and probably more prominently in general if I inferred correctly. If my goal is to help staff and parents "find your school and boundaries (related to your home location)" then I shouldn't be letting them sit so far down in the hierarchy. I hadn't really thought about all the noise that the index brings with all its entries. How do you feel about having wayfinding or reference points on the map at all? If I were to keep such points on the map, I'm wondering if showing their locations by text only would be effective rather than using a symbol?  

 

 

Correct, schools and school districts are the main (and in this case really the only)  theme of your map, so they should come first in the visual hierarchy. Now, the wayfinding locations would be useful to help people orient themselves so it'd be a point worth considering. I would personally argue to use symbols whenever possible, and add names, but make them less prominent than the schools. You'll have to kinda play it by ear to see what works I guess.


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