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Cartographer Chronicles: Robert Simmon

Cartographer Chronicles - Robert Simmon

The visual portrayal of quantitative and qualitative data is a process that requires the right tools. You want your audience to be able to make sense of the data you are sharing and be able to weave that data into a compelling and inspiring story. Here is how Avenza MAPublisher and Geographic Imager assisted Robert Simmon, Senior Data Visualization Engineer at Planet.

Robert isn’t your typical data visualization engineer who had formal training in scientific graphic design or cartography. His passion and interest in computer graphics and a master’s degree in materials science gave him the technical skills to start turning numbers into pictures that eventually helped him communicate with research scientists in his professional career.

Robert’s stepping stone into the fields of cartography, design, and data visualization happened during his work at NASA, where one of his first projects was creating a CD-ROM that would allow students and the interested public to explore a global ozone dataset. During his work there, he began to realize that the graphics published and used by NASA were made more for other scientists than for a broad audience. He also realized that good design was a powerful tool to improve communication. So, he tried to re-create scientific graphics in a more user-friendly form, with mixed success. “It wasn’t until I attended a talk by a popular lecturer on visualization that I learned there was a theory behind good design, and a big lightbulb went off in my head,” says Robert. “I began to read everything I could get my hands on about design, data visualization, and cartography—particularly map projections and the use of colour to encode information, since so much visualization at NASA revolved around satellite remote sensing data, which is quantitative and inherently geospatial.”

Eventually, Robert went on to found the Earth Observatory to share the breadth of NASA’s Earth science research with the interested public. After more than a decade with NASA, he received the chance to join the exciting startup—Planet—and work with an unprecedented, high-resolution, global dataset.

Robert developed a fairly unconventional workflow centred around Adobe design tools rather than GIS or scientific visualization software. This is where the Geographic Imager plugin for Adobe Photoshop and MAPublisher plugin for Adobe Illustrator proved invaluable to bridge the gap between data and visualization.

Map created using MAPublisher and Geographic Imager by Robert Simmon

Today, Robert’s day-to-day work largely revolves around processing visible and near-infrared imagery. Every image he works with gets imported into Photoshop with Geographic Imager. Creating maps in Adobe has proven to be effective and highly efficient as software like Adobe Photoshop possess powerful colour-correction tools, fast previews, layers, high bit-depth support, and undo history options.

This aids highly competent visualizers to work seamlessly and flexibly until an image is made perfect. Robert uses Geographic Imager to merge multiple adjacent image scenes or align a time series to make an animation (even if they’re in different projections), all with a single “import” step. He then exports the file as a GeoTIFF, so the image can later be combined with other, complementary data.

Robert Simmon uses Avenza Plugins

Although Robert enjoys working with imagery, he has had the most fun combining multiple data sources, especially raster and vector. Delving into his design workflow a bit deeper, he involves both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator together. In Adobe Photoshop/Geographic Imager he works on the initial colour work and crops his desired map extents, then imports it into Illustrator/MAPublisher to overlay with vector data and create masks. “It’s particularly useful to be able to crop the imported vector data to match the area of interest, rather than having to manually select and delete objects that lie outside the Illustrator artboard,” says Robert. After setting up his vector layers, he then exports them as a layered Photoshop file and re-combines them with the original raster imagery, to ensure pixel-perfect accuracy.

Data Visualization with Avenza Systems

Robert’s love for MAPublisher goes back to 2006 when he first used it to make maps with Landsat data. He used MAPublisher to create a water mask with ZIP code data, which was the only data source he could find with high enough resolution to accurately capture the jutting piers of lower Manhattan. Robert also used MAPublisher to create a map of Amazonia (one of his personal favourites from his portfolio) with the help of MAPublisher’s powerful attribute tools, which allowed him to select and merge data vector data of Amazon biome, distinct from the Political Amazon, for which data is readily available. He continued to create variations on this theme at Planet, including a map of the vegetation of Germany. It was derived from a Planet Surface Reflectance Basemap and given context with Natural Earth boundary, urban area, and transportation data.

Robert continues to tweak his colour palette for his vegetation maps since just being ‘good enough’ has never really been his forte.

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In collaboration with Robert Simmon, Senior Data Visualization Engineer at Planet.

Where to begin when you don’t have any data

Unless you are a GIS professional or a professional cartographer, finding the raw data to make a map may seem like a rather large barrier to success. However, there is plenty of publically available free map data out there to be used by graphic designers, and any cartographer that doesn’t have the means to generate their own data. Free map data is a great place to start when making a map, using MAPublisher and Adobe Illustrator to make it your own.    

First, You Have to Find It

Depending on what kind of map you want to make, and for what region or country, finding map data can be easy. There are plenty of governments and other agencies that make their geospatial data available for free. You just have to know where to look for it. Here is a list of the five that, in our opinion, are among the most useful.   

USGS Earth Explorer

The USGS Earth Explorer is an amazing resource for free satellite and aerial imagery. You can download imagery simply by creating a free account. The available imagery covers most of the globe and is often updated. The Earth Explorer user interface is relatively user-friendly so you can find what you need without too much effort. Among other sources, Earth Explorer includes high-quality Landsat and Sentinel 2 imagery.   

FreeGISData

By far the most complete compilation of free map data, FreeGISData contains links to over 500 data sets, categorized for easy browsing by data type and country. The list is maintained by Dr. Robin Wilson, an expert in remote sensing and GIS. This website is a great place to start if you don’t know exactly what you need or want to see what options are available to you in a particular region.  

Open Street Maps

Open Street Maps (OSM) is a crowdsourcing platform for GIS data meaning that all of the data is created by the public, so the accuracy can vary based on who created it and how. However, as with most crowdsourcing efforts, the quality is generally pretty good for most use cases, and the amount of data available is impressive. 

Natural Earth Data

Natural Earth Data offers vector and raster datasets that are in the public domain so you can modify them, use them and distribute them in any way you want without worrying about infringing copyrights or attribution. This is a great place to look if you simply want a base map to start your project. The available data spans the globe and includes the key cultural and physical data you may need for your map. The raster datasets also provide hillshade relief for aesthetically pleasing maps. 

NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)

SEDAC is a data center in NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Its mission is to support the integration of socioeconomic and earth science data and to serve as an ‘Information Gateway’ between earth sciences and social sciences. In addition to the gallery of downloadable maps, which includes a gridded population of the world, SEDAC offers a variety of data sets of socioeconomic data. You can search the available data sets by theme such as agriculture, climate, infrastructure, population, poverty, etc., or choose to data sets that include historical data, reaching back to the 18th century and that look ahead to a century from now. Neat! 

Join Data Sets to Make Your Map

Often cartographers and GIS analysts use open-source or publically available map data as a starting point then add some other data or additional insight. For example, you downloaded population data obtained from SEDAC but you want to add in some national sales data generated by your company. It’s possible to do it when all datasets are in the same format. GIS platforms like qGIS or use a conversion tool like this one can do the trick. 

Import Data Into Illustrator Using MAPublisher

Once you have your data is in order, it is time to get down to the business of making your map! Import the data into Adobe Illustrator to manipulate the design elements that will make the map interesting and informative. MAPublisher makes it possible to import map data in almost any format into Illustrator, and also enables a plethora of cartography specific tools right in the Illustrator environment. With all of your data arranged in layers in Illustrator, it is easy to work with, turning on and off the data you don’t want. 

Pro Tip: MAPublisher uses import filters to limit the amount of data that you bring into Illustrator to a manageable amount before you start working with it.   

Design Your Map Without Losing Geospatial Integrity

You now have layers and layers of lovely map data in Adobe Illustrator but it doesn’t yet look the way you want it to. MAPublisher’s cartography tools can change all that!  

    • Reproject or change the coordinate systems to change the appearance of the map
    • Crop or edit the data on the artboard
    • Add/remove layers
    • Style features by creating rules for the attributes
    • Add more data as new layers
    • Add labels and symbols based on rules
    • Create North Arrows and accurate scale bars with just a few clicks.

Each of these could be the subject of its own blog, however, lots of helpful resources on how to use MAPublisher tools including tutorials and how-to videos are available on our website and YouTube channel

Make Your Vision Come to Life

One of the best things about the MAPublisher plug-in for Adobe Illustrator is that it supports hundreds of data formats, allowing you to import almost any map data you can find into Adobe Illustrator. Happily, there is plenty of publically available, open-source map data available on the internet. Whether you are a professional cartographer, a hobbyist, or a graphic designer under the gun to design a map, you can use free map data as a starting point for your own map. Download a trial of MAPublisher today and find a data set to experiment with and make something amazing!  

Never Trace Map Borders Again with MAPublisher

Never trace map borders again with MAPublisher

Making maps is a fairly common request made of graphic designers. After all, graphic design is about storytelling and visualization, and maps are about the same things. However, maps are some of the most difficult projects that designers can take on. Whether the goal of the project is to improve the aesthetic of an existing map or to create a new one from scratch, you know it is going to entail a lot of detailed and technical work such as composing layer hierarchies, setting appropriate map scales, and determining feature strokes and colours. Meanwhile your client’s last request of making a map required tracing things like country borders, following and drawing boundary lines and features. All tedious tasks that you don’t actually want to do ever again.

Handy Tools to Have in Your Graphic Design Toolkit

In a nutshell, designing maps can be frustrating for even some of the best graphic designers who know the tools of the trade inside and out. The problem is, the de facto tool of the trade, Adobe Illustrator, isn’t equipped to handle creating maps with data. Luckily, there is a plug-in that adds additional tools to Illustrator to help with making maps, while still allowing you to design in the platform that you are most comfortable with. These are good tools to know about and have in your kit so that when the next map project comes along, you are prepared to crush it while still maintaining productivity.

We May Be Biased But…

One such solution is our MAPublisher cartography plug-in for Adobe Illustrator. MAPublisher enables a variety of basic and advanced cartographic tools in Illustrator that enhance its ability to handle geospatial information, also known as map data. Imagine being able to crop, move, reshape, add, and remove pieces of the map data without losing other important features or geographic accuracy. MAPublisher also ensures that the relationships between map features and their attributes are held together by organizing everything into tables and layers. This allows you to design maps by adding labels and icons, changing colours, and editing other map elements (like north arrows or map scales) automatically, using attribute-based rules rather than having to manually create and place all of these elements.

Design Maps With Data

Focus on What You Do Best

With the right tools, creating a map in Adobe Illustrator won’t cost you days and your sanity. Instead, simply import map data from a free source or purchase MAPublisher-ready maps, manipulate geographic areas (by changing the map projection) if you need to and begin styling the elements the way you want them to be. Whether your map is thematic, like this transit system type map, an infographic like this one, where colours are automatically applied according to the feature attributes, or this one which uses custom-designed symbols. Adding other elements, such as labels can be accomplished with just a few clicks, without the anguish of having to place and re-place labels to avoid crowding and overlapping. 

Knowing how to use basic cartography tools is a good skill set for graphic designers to have in their back pocket. It puts you ahead of the curve in your ability to make beautiful, well-designed, and geographically accurate maps with a reasonable amount of time and effort.

Download a free trial of MAPublisher and find out how easy it can be to make maps with additional cartography functionality in Adobe Illustrator. Or, try our Geographic Imager plug-in for Adobe Photoshop to easily edit geospatial imagery such as satellite and drone images.

 

 

Cartographer Chronicles: Kim Beckmann

Cartographer Chronicles - Avenza Systems

Kim Beckmann is a storyteller above all else. As a graphic designer and Associate Professor of Design & Visual Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), Beckmann
uses visual media to do just that. More recently, she dipped her toes into the world of cartography (another story-telling medium) then fell right into the deep waters.

It all started when researchers from the university’s School of Freshwater Science came to her for help with creating supporting materials for a research project. The team’s ambitious project set out to map several miles of the Milwaukee harbor coastline, studying the effects of urban development on the harbor habitats. The research team had already created highly detailed technical maps but reached out to the Peck School of the Arts for a faculty member who could help put together the material in a way that could be more easily digested by the public and told the a story about the impact of people on the habitats that exist in the harbor.

“I also represent a part of the general public who would be interacting with the maps; individuals that want the maps to tell them a story. I recall at the first team meeting where we discussed research findings and what to present on the maps, I had many questions. What type of fish live in the harbor and rivers? What do they eat? Where do they live? Does water temperature effect where and when we might find them? Interestingly, the questions I raised led to incorporating additional habitat information into the maps,” said Beckmann. “What started as a concept for a single map quickly evolved to a set of five maps due to the amount to information we needed to share, the largest being 3 ft by 4 ft!”

Harbor Habitat - MAPublisher

As a graphic designer, Beckmann had made maps before, including simple, vector-based topographic maps, and maps for wayfinding. But this was her first time working on a larger map project and her first time working with raw geospatial data to create bathymetric maps to illustrate water depth. “I am extremely comfortable with Adobe Illustrator so when I discovered that there was a cartography plug-in for it, called MAPublisher, that could be used to manage GIS data to create maps, I knew that it would be faster and easier than learning an independent cartography software tool.”

The School of Freshwater Science research team carried out data collection for the project using side-scan sonar devices. With technical support from the Avenza Systems team, Beckmann was able to get the data into a shapefile format and import it into Adobe Illustrator using MAPublisher. “I registered for a training course offered by Avenza Systems, on how to use MAPublisher with Illustrator,” said Beckmann. “That led to a meeting with Jeff who was able to provide helpful direction on how to transform the raw map data into the maps I wanted to make.”

Data Progression - MAPublisher

Jeff Cable is the Desktop Product QA Lead at Avenza Systems. In addition to his work with the MAPublisher development team, he is also responsible for providing training to new MAPublisher users. “I met Kim in 2016 at one of our in-class training sessions in Chicago,” said Cable. “She had a very clear vision of what she wanted to create, but after some more discussion and reviewing the data, I realized that it would require advanced GIS workflows in order to get the data to an appropriate level before it was ready for mapping.” Seeing the value in the research project, he offered to assist Kim rather than have her seek out a GIS professional on her own. Once the data was prepared, she took what she learned from the MAPublisher training course and was able to apply visualization techniques to her maps. Cable corresponded several times as the project progressed and provided guidance. “Kim would ask if MAPublisher could do this or that, and in most cases, my answer was You bet it can!” he added. In addition to providing tips and best practices, he showed her many of the useful tools in MAPublisher that made her workflow more streamlined such as copying MAP Objects, working with MAP Stylesheets, and creating insets. “When I saw the finished product, I was blown away by what Kim had created. It was also gratifying as a training instructor to see how far she had come since our first meeting.”

Beckmann has since spoken about her work on the Milwaukee Harbor habitat maps project to the American Geographical Society, cartography clubs, and presented an artist talk as part of the Peck School of the Arts Artist Now! Lecture Series. The series of five maps have been printed on canvas and distributed to local and regional schools and turned into metal signage to be installed along the shores of the harbor to help share important research conducted by Janssen Labs with the public.

Fish Maps by Kim Beckmann using MAPublisher

The first of five maps installed at Harbor View Plaza Park.

Two of the maps installed in the active learning classroom as Discovery World.

Disovery World is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Beckmann’s maps also currently hang in the Avenza Systems offices and we are proud to have them as a reminder of the amazing things visual artists and cartographers can do with the tools we provide.

Learn more about the project and how the maps were made on the UWM website https://uwm.edu/harbormaps/

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In collaboration with Kim Beckmann, Associate Professor of Design & Visual Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

Explore all that you can do with the latest ‘Spatial Join’

By Olly Normanton, QA Specialist


This is one feature we have all been waiting for. Spatial Join is a very useful tool to be included in the MAPublisher roster as of version 10.6 and I would like to share a little bit about the tool with you in this feature blog. 

The Spatial Join tool inserts the columns and attributes from one feature table to another based on location or proximity. Currently, we support several Spatial Join types including:

  • Intersects: If any part of two features touch at any location
  • Identical To: Both features match identically
  • Contains: When one feature intersects with the interior or boundary of another
  • Near: If a line can be drawn from any part of A to any part of B that is less than the specified minimum distance
  • Closest: If a line can be drawn from any part of A to any part of B that is less than any other such line between B & any other feature
  • Has Centre In: When one features centroid lies Within another feature
  • Within: If all of one feature lies within the interior boundary of another

 

Here is a wonderful map of Italy created by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics available through the One Stop Map service. It will provide a great way to show you some examples of the Spatial Join tool in action. It contains a Cities layer and a Regions layer and I would like to see which cities fall into each region by using Spatial Join.

Cities and Region Layer using MAPublisher 10.6

You can see below that the Cities attribute table contains the name of each city and there are 70 in total. 

MAP Attributes on MAPublisher 10.6

There are 20 different regions that these cities lie within. To figure out which cities belong to which region, we have the ability to spatially join attribute information from the Cities point layer to the Regions area layer. In addition, we’ll use the Concatenate operation on the NAME attribute to list all the cities that belong to a region in one field.

To do this, click the new Spatial Join button on the MAPublisher toolbar or access the Spatial Join dialog box via Object > MAPublisher > Spatial Join. 

Spatial Join Button on MAPublisher 10.6

The Spatial Join tool will always open on the Join tab seen below. I will be adding data to my Regions area layer and joining data from my Cities point layer. The relationship is set to Contains—in other words, when one feature intersects with the interior or boundary of another. A description of the operation is always provided beneath the relationship. 

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

The Precision slider alters the tolerance that is used to determine when two values are equivalent (or approaching equivalent). Depending on your data, this may need to be altered in some cases but for this example, I will be leaving it in the default position. 

On the Attributes tab, I am going to concatenate the NAME field. By double-clicking on the attribute, I can access the Edit Calculated Attribute Operation dialog box. In addition, I am going to sum both the POP_MAX and POP_MIN attributes. I’m also going to append a Count attribute to the table so I can quickly verify how many cities are in each region.

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

Within the Edit Calculated Attribute Operation dialog box, I am going to set the Operation drop-down to Concatenate and leave the separator as default as Comma then space. 

Spatial Join Tool on MAPublisher 10.6

After confirming the Spatial Join with the OK button, we’ll open the MAP Attribute table for the Regions area layer and take a look at the results.

Spatial Join Result

You can see that the cities have been concatenated by region and the POP_MAX and POP_MIN attributes have been summed for the regions based on the cities contained within them. The count attribute was also added to the attribute table and as only 56 of our 70 cities were within the Italian Regions area layer, that is the total value of our count. 

For the eagle-eyed readers who may have noticed that there are only 12 cities that surround Italy in the full map displayed at the beginning of this article and 70 – 56 = 14, the difference can be explained by San Marino and Vatican City, both of which are autonomous countries and not part of Italy. You can see that they are in fact separate polygons. 

City Map

For a full list of the relationships that are available based on the different layer types, and also the input attribute types, please see the tables below. 

Layer Attributes
Input Attribute Table

This post was made using the incredibly beautiful map data provided by our good friends over at One Stop Map. Stay tuned as MAPublisher Aware Maps are coming very soon to the One Stop Map Store, which will allow you to directly purchase the Adobe Illustrator files and put your own style on the maps! If you’re interested in seeing more of their work, take a look at these One Stop Map Country Maps.

 

Plotting Curved Lines in MAPublisher: It’s Here!

MAPublisher 10.6 has now been released and we are very excited to share these powerful new features with you. If you’re new to MAPublisher, you can get a rundown of the full feature set here, and even try it free for 14 days. In this feature highlight blog, I will be providing a brief overview of the ability to Plot Curved Lines with the Line Plotter tool. 

When plotting a line from point to point, you now have the option of selecting whether that line is Geodesic (also known as a Great Circle), Cartesian (planar), or a Rhumb Line (also known as Loxodromic). To provide a brief definition of each type:

Geodesic line: the shortest line between two points on a mathematically defined surface (as a straight line on a plane or an arc of a great circle on a sphere or ellipsoid like the Earth’s surface). On a geodesic line, the bearing to the destination point does not remain constant. This would be the type of line you would want to use when determining a flight path between two cities, for example. 

Rhumb line: this is a path with constant bearing as measured relative to true or magnetic north and is rarely the shortest line between two points. A rhumb line on a Mercator projection is a straight line which made the projection incredibly useful to navigators from as early as the 16th century.

 

Rhum Line Mercator - MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb Lines on a Mercator Projection

Cartesian line: can simply be defined as a straight line connecting points.

To view this feature in action, we are going to be using curved geodesic lines to create an Airline Route Map. The reason why we are using geodesic lines for this type of map is because they provide the most economical route in terms of distance. Following the rhumb line would waste time and fuel for all but the most brief routes. 

I began by importing some data that provided my backdrop for the routes I am planning to map. My flights will span the entire globe so I required world coverage. You can also test out this feature and use the World.mif file or the WorldEast.shp and WorldWest.shp files provided in the MAPublisher tutorial data. 

I decided to use the Equal Earth Projected coordinate system.

Adding Locations

The next step was to establish the hubs from which our aircraft would fly and the destinations that we would offer as an airline company. For this, I needed points and coordinates. Instead of searching for and importing a hefty list of airports and then trying to filter down to ones of interest to me with selections, I opted to use the MAP Locations tool. 

MAP locations - MAPublisher 10.6

By utilizing the “Add Map Locations from web” feature highlighted at the bottom of the MAP Locations panel, adding each destination and its corresponding coordinates was as easy as typing in the city’s name. It can take a while to establish all of your locations but the best thing is that you only need to do this process once as the MAP Locations can easily be brought to other documents using the Copy MAP Objects From feature.

Copy MAP Objects - MAPublisher 10.6

Plotting Points

Now that I had all of my locations of interest and their coordinates, I could plot these onto my map as points. For this I used the MAP Point Plotter. 

Plotting Points - MAPublisher 10.6

By accessing the panel options menu in the top right-hand corner, you can select Plot MAP Locations. In the dialog that opens, select all of the city MAP Locations. In my example, I selected all and then de-selected Abu Dhabi and Toronto as these will be my main hubs and will be plotted with a different custom symbol to other destinations.

Plot MAP Locations - MAPublisher 10.6

I chose to plot them to a new Point layer that I named “Cities” and I included WGS84 values as attributes. I created a custom red main hub symbol using Adobe Illustrator tools to use for my destinations. You may need to play with the scaling of the symbol to get your desired look. 

Location Symbol on Avenza Maps

To create a custom symbol in Adobe Illustrator, draw out your design like the main hub symbol above, highlight the art, and drag the art to the Symbol window that can be accessed by going to Window > Symbols. You can then give it a name and select the static symbol option. 

Plotting the Routes

With the cities and main hubs now plotted, it was time to add the routes. 

plotting the routes - MAPublisher 10.6

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

I targeted a new Line layer called “Routes” and set my start point using the MAP Locations selector. I was sure to change the Method to Geodesic. 

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6
I started adding cities using the “Add Point from MAP Location” control shown here. Once you select your point, a preview will be drawn onto the artboard if your “Show line preview” option is checked.

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

The route above is from Abu Dhabi to Mexico City. You can select multiple destinations to account for layovers. You can also change the order of the points once they are in the list using the arrows highlighted below. 

Line Plotter - MAPublisher 10.6

Once all of the routes have been plotted, the points were labelled with MAP Label Pro and a customized graticule was added. Here’s the final map in two projection styles to show how a map projection can change the look of the routes and the overall look of the map.

Airline Route Map - Avenza Systems

Projected Coordinate System: Equal Earth

Geodetic Route Map - Avenza Systems

Geodetic Coordinate System: WGS84

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By Olly Normanton, QA Specialist 

What’s New in MAPublisher 10.6

Continued Compatibility with Adobe 2020

Both Windows (64-bit) and Mac users can explore the exciting new and improved features MAPublisher 10.6 offers with the latest version of Adobe Illustrator. Talk about a power duo — upgrade today (it’s free for maintenance users)!

Spatial Join

In our line of work, spatial relationships are really important and can be complicated, but working with them shouldn’t be. MAPublisher 10.6 delivers the brand-new Spatial Join feature and we’re ecstatic to be sharing it with you. With Spatial Join, you can:

  • copy attributes from one layer to another based on their spatial relationship
  • use relationships including Near, Closest, Identical To, Contains, Within, Has Centre In, and Intersects
  • adjust the Precision and Tolerance

 

Spatial Join Tool

Spatial Join Tool MAPublisher 10.6

Spatial Join tool

Spatial Join for MAPublisher 10.6

Features joined based on spatial relationship

Improved Line Plotter

The Earth isn’t flat, and your plotted lines shouldn’t be either! The improved Line Plotter tool will accurately plot lines with the Geodesic and Rhumb line methods, taking your projection into consideration (or calculation if we’re getting technical) and is available for both Point by Point and Course & Distance plotting styles.

The Rhumb line method will create either straight or curved lines, depending on the projection used. Still want to plot straight lines? The Cartesian method is sticking around and will work just as you remember it. A preview option is now available, so you can take a look at the three different methods on your map before plotting the line (or simply turn it off if your line has too many points).

Line Plotter Settings MAPublisher 10.6

geodesic_lineplotter MAPublisher 10.6

Geodesic Method: Shortest distance between points

Rhumbline Line Plotter MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb lines: Constant bearing, curved or straight depending on the map projection.

cartesian_lineplotter MAPublisher 10.6

Cartesian lines: straight lines from destination to destination.

Improved Map Measurement Tool

linemeasurement Settings MAPublisher 10.6

 

With the addition of the Geodesic and Rhumb methods for plotting lines, we’ve made sure you can accurately measure the distance between points with these methods as well, whether they’re curved or straight lines.

  • Measure distances between points using Geodesic, Cartesian and Rhumb line methods
  • Like the Line Plotter, Geodesic and Rhumb measurement lines can be curved or straight, depending on the map projection
  • A combination of keyboard presses (Shift + Click) will add the measurement line as an object on your layer

Rhumbline Measurement MAPublisher 10.6

Rhumb Measurement Line

Geodesic Measurement Line MAPublisher 10.6

Geodesic measurement line

cartesian_measurement MAPublisher 10.6

Cartesian Measurement Line

Installer Will Uninstall Previous Versions

We’ve made some improvements to the installer. You’ll notice that the MAPublisher 10.6 installer will prompt you to uninstall previous versions of MAPublisher. We’ve designed the installer to guide you through this process. You can also uninstall older versions through the Control Panel (Windows) or as usually on macOS.

Export Document to Image

Colours on a map can make important information pop or sometimes they just make the map look nice. Whichever way, we’ve made sure your colour profiles stick around when exporting your document to an image. ICC profiles (the data that characterizes a coloured input or output device) will be embedded when documents are exported as TIFF files. If an Adobe Illustrator document is in the CMYK colour space, its colour profile will be embedded in the TIFF if the exported TIFF’s colour mode is also set to CMYK.

Map Data Links

We’ve made it easier to keep your workspace clean. Previously, when a layer is deleted, data links were not removed. In MAPublisher 10.6, data links are now removed when a layer is deleted and is the new default behaviour.

Stay safe out there and happy Spring cleaning!

Creating Map Insets, made easy with MAPublisher

To tell the complete story, we added insets of the major urban areas around the country, to make the additional detail there more readily accessible. Making the insets was easy using MAPublisher’s Copy Map Objects tool in Adobe Illustrator.

 

Maps are powerful story-telling tools that can provide additional context and a deeper understanding of an issue. In a highly visual way, they can summarize complex data in an engaging presentation. Maps can sometimes contain very large amounts of data, compressing it into an easy to read the overview. Maps can also drill down into the data to offer more depth, and sometimes a very different story than the overarching one.

One way to do that is by using insets. Insets on a map can be used to bring faraway places closer together, erasing expanses of water or land that aren’t relevant to the map. They are also a way to focus on map data that cannot be easily distinguished at a different scale. For example, after the most recent Federal Election in Canada, we made a map showing the election results in each of the ridings across the country. 

If you’re not familiar with the Canadian system, the country is divided into geographic areas, called ridings, based at least in part on population density, so that each riding represents a certain number of voters. In each riding, a representative is elected to hold a seat in Parliament. In the 2019 election, there was a total of 338 seats. The government is formed by the political party that wins in the majority of ridings. 

So the morning after election day the political map of Canada, at the federal level looked like this. We made map importing publicly available data on the riding boundaries and election results.

Election map of Canada created using MAPublisher

Clearly, our political leanings (at the federal level, at least) are influenced by our geography.  Or are they? There is, in fact much more data on the map than can be seen at this scale.

Canada is the second-largest country in the world, by landmass, with a relatively small population of just under 38 Million people. Combine that with the fact that 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas. That means that in order to fairly represent the population with representatives in Parliament, urban areas will contain many, smaller electoral ridings while the rural ones will be much larger in area. Does the map at this scale then really tell us what’s really going on with politics in Canada? Can you tell which party was the victor with this view?

To tell the complete story, we added insets of the major urban areas around the country, to make the additional detail there more readily accessible. Making the insets was easy using MAPublisher’s Copy Map Objects tool in Adobe Illustrator.

First, create a new document, which will be used as a temporary working space. Using the Copy MAP Objects tool, copy the required data layers from the original document into the new one.  Zoom in to an area of interest and draw a box around it. With the box selected, use the Crop to Shape tool to remove data outside of the area of interest. In the original document, create a new artboard where you want the inset to be located. Then use the Copy Map Objects tool once again to bring the cropped data back into the original document and scale it to the new inset artboard.  Draw a box around the pasted bits to indicate the inset, and add labels. Return to the temporary document, undo the data crop and repeat the process for as many insets as you need. Easy!

Canada Elections Map by Jeff Cable, Avenza Systems

With the insets added we get the full extent of the election picture, and a better sense of what the results actually were. The map together with the insets also highlights the impact of population density and regional population distribution on political representation. It’s valuable information for future campaigns, but also raises interesting questions about the fairness of the current electoral system. For now, we’ll leave election reform to the experts and stick to making maps. ^_^ 

You can find a video on how to use this tool and others on our YouTube channel.

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By Jeff Cable, Desktop QA Lead

 

What’s New? Geographic Imager 6.1

Geographic Imager 6.1 is available now and in addition to full compatibility with Adobe Photoshop 2020, here are the other exciting new features to make working with spatial imagery in Photoshop even easier:

Vector Import from databases

Geographic Imager allows you to import a number of GIS vector formats directly on to your images in Photoshop. Whether performing a check to ensure accurate georeferencing, QA/QC or simply including supplemental data, this functionality allows you to improve the efficiency of your workflow. For a while, it was only possible to import vector data from your own files however we have added the capability to import from databases including PostGIS Spatial Database, and ESRI File and Personal Databases (.gdb and .mdb). Note that importing vector data from databases is only available in the full version of Geographic Imager.

Improved Mosaic Layer organization

When mosaicking documents in Photoshop with Geographic Imager’s Mosaic tools, you previously had the option to either group the layers from each document into folders or merge all layers into one single layer. In this new release, we’ve added a new option to merge source document layers which will flatten each source document into a single layer, but also keep each document separated in the destination, without the use of folders. This helps to keep the individual images separate while minimizing the number of layers and folders you need to deal with.

Improved mosaic layer

Geographic Imager 6.1 Improved mosaic layer

7 GIS terms To Know: Map Making for Designers

Many of our MAPublisher clients are cartographers and GIS professionals, but a growing number are graphic designers who are tired of the tedious work of making maps without specialized tools. Making a map is part art and part science and while we help bridge the gap between Geographic Information Systems (the science) and graphic design (the art), as a graphic designer, you may not be familiar with the wonderful world of GIS.

So on this GIS Day, we have compiled the definitions to a few common GIS terms that you may encounter; GIS Day, celebrated each year, in November to help educate non-GIS professionals about the importance of geospatial information systems and the benefits that GIS brings to our lives.

1. Spatial Analysis

Any good and useful design involves analysis. This process of stacking layers, inspecting and interpreting model results seeks to solve complex location-oriented problems. This can be used for predictive analysis, estimating the level of suitability and for further understanding of the geographic location. 

spatial analysis

2. Layer 

Maps contain several layers, each representing a set of spatial features. Layers are laid atop one another for viewing or spatial analysis. This lends itself to working with the map layers in Illustrator, as they can be treated similarly to a layer containing artwork.  

3. Attributes

Attributes denote a geographic feature on a map. The information is typically stored in a tabular format that is linked to the feature. For instance, the attributes of a well-represented point along a river may include the name, the course of the river/ length, sediment load, etc. 

When you are familiar with the attributes associated with the map data, you can do things like applying rules to style your map according to attributes in the table.

4. Geocoding

Geocoding

The process identifies a location by its geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude). This is used to position places and features on a map as well as to reference the map itself. 

5. Buffers

Buffer

A buffer is a zone around a specific map feature, that is measured in units of time or distance. A buffer is useful for proximity analysis or visualizing the areas that are within a certain distance from another feature (i.e. within school zones, or floodplains) 

6. Polygons/Areas

Areas / Polygons on a map

Enclosed Polygons on a map are often referred to as areas. Polygons can have attributes associated with them to represent a particular real-world entity such as postal code, economic identifiers, population demographics, environmental factors, or social behaviors.

The image above depicts areas on a map.

7. Coordinate systems

The planet is not flat, however, we routinely try to represent it in 2 dimensions on paper and screens. The Coordinate systems act as a reference framework that helps position features in order to make a map more useful for the purpose desired.

Coordinate Systems

It is important to note that there are thousands of coordinate systems, so it’s important to take the time to figure out which would work best for the type of map you intend on creating. Sometimes you’ll need to change the coordinate system from the one defined in the underlying map data, to help the map make more sense to the end-user. 

They say an artist is one who gives people something they didn’t know they were missing. If you happen to be an artist or know an artist (graphic designer) who seeks to give people direction – literally ‘direction’ – you’ve landed in the right place. Go ahead and share this article with like-minded map enthusiasts to begin learning and delivering high-quality maps the easy way. 

Sources:

https://researchguides.dartmouth.edu/gis/spatialanalysis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffer_(GIS)