Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cartographic Skills: Cartographic Design

In this weeks class we created a map for Ward 7 Public Schools in Washington DC. For this map we followed Gestalts Principles of Design. Gestalts Principles refer to visual perception of how elements are arranged within an image and uses a visual hierarchy in order to gain better prospective of certain elements.

We started with open data from the City of Washington DC using Arcmap. We layered city boundary, city streets (including all the major roads), neighborhoods, Ward 7 boundary and lastly Ward 7 public schools. I centered the Ward 7 boundary as close to the netline as I could get. Doing this gave the map balance as it centered Ward 7, making it the main object or area of reference.

After adding all the necessary map layers it was time to figure out how to create my visual hierarchy. I had a rough looking map at the beginning, with all elements of similar contrast. So I started by adjusting the Ward 7 boundary to a darker gray. I then adjusted the rest of the city boundary to a lighter gray contrast. In my mind I was using the principle of "Figure-Ground" in creating a backdrop for future higher hierarchy objects to be placed upon.. My rough draft idea was to create basic colors for the ground features and then later apply the schools on top using bright color icons to make them stand out against the simple dark background of the map.

I then applied the same theory of basic contrast to the road layers. I clipped the roads that were completely within Ward 7 in order to separate them from roads outside Ward 7. Doing this allowed me to create more contrast for the roads within Ward 7 and then create lighter contrast for the roads outside of Ward 7.

I did not stop there with the road layers. Having all the roads on the map would be too messy. I created thicker lines for the major roads and applied a darker contrast to show these roads as the major thoroughfares. I used a lighter contrast for the minor city streets, which are low items for visual hierarchy. In other words the minor city streets do not need to be in great detail because they are not the main theme. Having the streets adjusted to a soft color does not overwhelm the eyes and also gives the map good balance.

I had created a good rough draft of my map in Arcmap so I then exported to Adobe Illustrator for adding further touches to the map. I added labels for the neighborhoods that had a school within its boundaries. The instruction was to create labels of one neighborhood from each cluster but I felt that adding neighborhoods with a school nearby, made more sense for my map. I used a red color for the neighborhood labels but set the opacity down to keep them from looking like a main theme object or of lower hierarchy than these schools. I wanted to make the labels appear as if they are a more in the background.

For my inset map I trimmed one side of the border to match the angle of the city boundary. I took advantage of the unique angle the city boundary creates. This gave the inset map proper size and good balance in flow from the main map space into the inset.

This weeks lab had a lot of trial and error. The steps above sounds easy but there was a lot of adjusting back and forth in trying different contrast, colors and location of map objects. This week I had time in my busy schedule to create this map early in the week so I ended up coming back to it throughout the week. I have found that if I sleep on it and come back the next day, I start to see  things I didn't see before. So I'm trying to get a good rough draft done ahead of the deadline, in order to look again and edit throughout the week.

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