Monday, January 30, 2017

Cartographic Skills: Intro to Graphic Design with Adobe Illustrator

In this week's class we dove head first into Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a excellent tool for developing maps into publishable, high quality graphical images. In this weeks assignment we created a map to be used in a children's encyclopedia. I chose to go with a clean looking map that highlights the major cities and water waterways of Florida.

For my Florida map I chose to keep it simple. I chose to go with only the largest of cities by population and also included the capital city. We used a very handy script to change the city icons from basic looking icons that come from Acrmap, to better looking icons from the AI library of symbols. 
I used Arrow Brush Lines pointing the city labels to each icon. The use of the arrows allows for a better view of the land and water features within the mainland by not cluttering labels over the land surface. I think the arrows also give the map a subtle cartoon effect but still a clean view of where the major cities are located. 
Features like adding arrows and labels anywhere on the map is something AI is great at. It's very hard to do the same thing in Arcmap. You can also add clip art from any image you have saved. This allowed me to search for images online and easily apply them to the map. You can see I found nice images of the state flower, state bird and state seal. 
Other techniques I found very useful was the opacity tool. After choosing the proper looking colors across the map, certain features stood out more than others due to high color contrast.. So I used the opacity tool which tones down high contrast for chosen map elements.
The one thing I wish I had done was adjust the coloring of the water features better. I feel they do not stand out enough. The reason I was not able to get these colored better is because I had done a lot of small work first, like adding other map elements and saved into a final rough draft before noticing how pale the water features are. All of the map elements are located within  a layer tree, similar to Arcmap's table of contents. So there's a whole lot of layering as every map feature has a location within the layer tree.  I attempted to find and select the water features but I ended up with a very unorganized layer tree and could not pull out the water features in order to adjust them.
This was a learning curve for me. Next time I will try to organize and understand the layer tree first. Maybe organize first, then start editing, would be a good practice. I'm understanding that if you keep your layer tree organized and clean, you'll be able to change features better. I'm also seeing how important it is to create a basic idea of the map first, similar to a writer's main plot. Create the main look and theme first, then add details later. 
I found this first dive into AI very fun. I look forward to working with this software in greater detail.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cartographic Skills: Map Critique

In this weeks lab we looked at map design. Below are two maps. One of a well designed map and another of a poorly designed map. I chose to compare a new transit map (well designed)  vs an old transit map (poorly designed) of Mexico City's Metro System. 

Well Designed Map

This Mexico City Transit maps takes a very complex transit system and turns it into an easily viewed and usable map. It eliminates scale and a true representation of the real world. It allows users to visualize transit data in more of a list view. One can simply scroll down each route and look for their stop.
The main theme of the map greatly relates to Tufteisms Design Principle number twenty; The revelation of the complex. This map takes a complex system and turns it into an easily usable map. Basically it uses two main items of data; rail lines and stops. It ignores all other map features in order to represent the data. 
This map also relates to Tufteisms Design Principle number eighteen; forgo chartjunk. The main objective for this map is to display routes and stops and how they fall in order to each other. By “forging” cartjunk like cross streets or major points of interest, the view and understanding is greatly highlighted. One only needs to know their stop in order navigate within this map. In a way, this map is more like a list or tabular view.
By using straight lines for the rail routes and not exactly representing the ground truth of where things lay in relation to the real world, greatly makes it easier to read. This relates to Tufeisms Principle number sixteen; erase redundant data-ink. A rail line only goes in two directions and never changes course. So taking the curves and the scale out of the map and portraying them as lines and stops, greatly simplifies the map.
This map is greatly appealing aesthetically in that is uses straight lines and listing each stop down each line. It uses colors to represent each line which corresponds to the real world but also it doesn’t need color as each route is clearly identified at the start and end points by a route number. Lastly the use of unique symbols for each stop greatly simplifies real world use. Train riders can visually correspond each stop to the unique symbol on the map and also in the real world. You wouldn’t even need to know the name of the stop if you know the symbol. With all of these aesthetically pleasing and highly usable map objects put together, I can see this map being very effective for anyone traveling this transit system.

Poorly Designed Map 

When comparing the new Mexcio City transit map, the old one is very cumbersome and confusing.  There is far too much map crap by the use of a road network layer, which has no relation to the data theme of the map. The map also has far too many map labels making it confusing in figuring out the map.
The idea of Tufteisms Map design number fifteen; Erase non-data ink, is very much present in the map. The use of too many labels and street data takes away from the real objective of the map. Also having the street data present does not “Forgo chartjuck”. But the main map principle this map lacks is Tufteims number twenty; The revelation of the complex. The map tried to add too many complex items such as scale, direction and objects relating to ground truth. Having all the items present in one map when trying to show the complex structure of the transit system, gets lost in a confusion of connecting lines across the whole map space. It’s clearly too much data all in one map.