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.

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