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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)

What’s New? MAPublisher 10.5

MAPublisher 10.5 was released today and it has lots of new and improved features to make it even easier to make beautiful maps in Adobe Illustrator. 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. If you already use MAPublisher, we would love for you to tell us, on our Facebook page about your favourite feature or even share a map you’ve made!

Adobe 2020 Compatibility

This version of MAPublisher is fully compatible with Adobe Illustrator 2020 so go ahead and upgrade! Are you excited? We are too, but mostly about the other new stuff that is also included in this version of MAPublisher.

Interval Markers

Want to add mileage markers or mark intervals along roads, trails or other paths? Do it automatically using this new feature! Options for interval markers are found in the Path Utilities tool.

  • Define the distance of the interval and the units
  • Select and style the shape of the interval marker
  • Choose the font type, size, and spacing within the marker shape
  • Choose where to start and how to increment the markers

 

Map without interval markers - MAPublisher

Interval Marker Dialog Box

Map with interval markers - MAPublisher

Favourite Fonts

Tired of scrolling through hundreds of irrelevant fonts to find the ones you like? Now you can select your favourite fonts to appear at the top of the font selection list in Illustrator, saving you time and the reactivation of your repetitive stress injury. Recently used fonts will also appear at the top of the list.

NOTE: Screenshot is for illustrative purposes only. We do not advocate for the use of the Comic Sans font by anyone, at any time, for any reason. Ever.)

Customizable MAPublisher Toolbar

MAPublisher has a lot of tools. That’s a good thing, right? But let’s say you’re in a minimalist mood, or just want to simplify your life by tidying up the clutter. Customize the MAPublisher toolbar by selecting which tool categories to display on the toolbar, and hiding the ones you don’t use often. Ahh, now that’s better.

Customize the MAPublisher toolbar

Display Coordinate System Information on Scale Bar

Often, maps include the name of the coordinate systems in which the map is displayed, for reference purposes. It’s easy enough to create a text box and add this information manually, but we’re all about avoiding manual work.

Click the Display coordinate system checkbox in the Scale Bar to include the MAP View coordinate system as part of the scale bar.

  • Customize the label so that it reads the way you want it to
  • Decide on the positioning of the text above, below or beside the scale bar
  • Choose to center or align the label as you see fit

Add coordinate systems automatically

Other Useful Enhancements

MAP Attributes

You can now copy ‘read-only’ attribute values from MAP Attributes. Presumably, if you need or want to use this capability, the description of it probably makes sense to you.   

Copy MAP Objects

In the past, you could not automatically link copied objects to layers in the destination document if it contained layers with the same name as the layer in which the copied object originated. Still with us? 

Now you can automatically link objects (MAP Themes and Selections) to layers even if the destination document contains layers with the same name as the source document layer which is tied to the copied object. Now, grab a cup of peppermint tea and look at that neat and tidy toolbar for a few minutes to refocus. 

MAP Symbols 

New Oil & Gas symbols have been added to the MAP Symbols Library, as requested by users in this industry. 

MAPublisher makes it easy to make maps in Adobe Illustrator without the manual work, and with the flexibility to style and design maps while retaining the geospatial integrity of the map data. It’s the bridge between the art and science of cartography.

How It’s Done in MAPublisher – Batch Generate Rules

MAP Themes are a great tool for stylizing your data quickly and easily. Since we all love to make our workload easier, did you know that you can batch generate rules for your MAP Theme Stylesheets instead of creating them all individually? Batch generate rules allows you to easily categorize your data and stylize it as you see fit.

Check out this short video that demonstrates how to use the batch generate rules tool in MAP Theme Stylesheets in MAPublisher!

For more How It’s Done in MAPublisher videos, check out our YouTube channel!

How It’s Done in MAPublisher – Adding North Arrows

Adding a north arrow to your map allows your map reader to better understand the direction of the map, and is a key tool for navigation. North arrows can be configured to a custom coordinate, such as magnetic north as well as true north.

Check out this short video that demonstrates how to create and configure north arrows in MAPublisher!

For more How It’s Done in MAPublisher videos, check out our YouTube channel!

Refreshing Your Maps with Linked Data

Does your map have data that updates periodically? Maybe your river data gets updated each year, or the lake boundaries change. Typically, this means importing all the data into your map again as things change. To make your life easier, MAPublisher has the option to Manage Data Links, which allows you to check for updates to linked data and to automatically apply the updates to the map! You can even set your MAP Theme Stylesheets to apply to the new data so you don’t have to re-style it manually.

Say you’ve got a street map that you created last year. But, the city has updated the status of some of the streets. Some of the lanes have changed to local roads, and some of the minor arterial roads have been updated to major arterial. Instead of importing all of your data again, let’s create some data links (with linked MAP Theme Stylesheets) to update the map with ease.

Toronto Streets

Let’s focus on a small inset of this map so we can better see the changes that will happen. In this example, we’ll focus on an area where we know the ‘laneways’ have changed to ‘local’ roads. Our laneways are purple, and our local roads are in blue.

Toronto Streets Inset

Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s check out the data link itself. Your data link was automatically created when you imported your data. To access the data link, simply open the Manage Data Links in the MAP Views panel.

Edit Data Link

You’ll see that there is one data link, and that’s for the streets file we imported to make the map last year.  To view the settings of the data link, click Edit (pencil icon) at the bottom-left of the dialog box.

Edit Data Link

Now you have the option to turn on the ‘Automatically check for updates when the document is opened’ setting, and (or) turn on ‘Apply any relevant stylesheet or dot density themes to layers on update’. In order for the stylesheet option to work, be sure to set the appropriate destination layer.

Edit Link Details

Once all the settings are set, check if there are any data updates by clicking the Check button in the Manage Data Link window.

Check for Updates

After checking we can see that the Status has updated to say that our data is out of date. Click the Update button to update the data. A dialog box will pop up to confirm that this is indeed the data you’d like to update. Click Update to start the update. I know that some of the ‘laneways’ have been changed to ‘local’ roads, and so the attribute has been updated. Since I created the MAP Theme using those, we should see the changes.

Update Data Links

Updating Data

Once the update is finished, we can see on our map that all of our ‘laneways’ have changed to ‘local’ roads, and they have updated with the MAP Theme Stylesheet as well.

Final Updated Map

Using the Manage Data Links option is an easy way to update your data when updates become available! Save yourself the time and hassle of importing data over and over again and use the data links to your advantage. If you’re looking for more documentation, be sure to check out our help pages.

Importing Data from Servers in MAPublisher

Sometimes when you’re on the hunt for geospatial data, all the data you need isn’t available in common file formats. Luckily for us, lots of data is available on Web Map Services (WMS), Web Feature Services (WFS), ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Web Services, and PostGIS.

Data can be imported into MAPublisher from all of these services. Importing from a server connection always retains the attributes and referencing that exists in the original data. In order to import from a server, an internet connection is required.

WMS and WFS services can be part of open data portals, or for private use. Both services allow you to add layers of data to your map in MAPublisher, but have different functionalities. WMS allows you to import raster data in a variety of formats, while WFS allows you to import vector data.

To import from WMS or WFS, go to Import or Multi Data Import, and choose Web Map Service, or Web Feature Service from the Format listbox. Once you’ve selected the source you’d like to use, load services from Avenza (pre-loaded services) or, import your own from a file.

Import from WFS

Once you’ve selected your specific service, you can select the layers you’d like to import. Information such as layer name and description is included. There is also the option to use the spatial filter directly in the layer selection box, to use the extents of another layer to specify, or specify exact coordinates to limit the area being imported.

When importing data from WMS or WFS, you have the option to use the spatial filters, layer filters (attribute expressions included!) and simplification. These options allow you to filter the data to better suit your needs.

Filtering WFS

Filtering WMS

If you’re importing from ArcGIS Online, you’ll need an ArcGIS Online account, and an internet connection. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to select data to import. When importing data, you can choose Feature Layers, Map Image Layers, and Tile Layers to import.

When importing Feature Layers, you’re able to filter the data as well. Once you select the Feature Layer that you’d like to import, you can choose to ‘Edit Query’ and write a SQL statement to narrow down the features or attributes you’d like to import.

Edit Query

Importing from ArcGIS Features

Once your query is made, your data can be imported.

If you want to import Map Image Layers or Tile layers, you’re able to choose a specific area to import, very similar to the Spatial filters available when importing other files. Using the ‘Select Area’ option can help reduce the size of the image you’re importing and helps crop data before you import it, so you’re not importing large amounts of data you’re not going to use.

Importing from ArcGIS Map Tiles

In order to import from ArcGIS Web Service, you’ll need an ArcGIS Web Service URL. Previously imported services are saved in the Service URL drop-down list.

Lastly, if you’re importing data using the PostGIS option, you also have the ability to filter your data. You can specify a Spatial Filter, and manually set the coordinates for points 1 and 2.

PostGIS Filtering

PostGIS Filtering

This will allow you to import only the data you need! You can also filter your data using a SQL query, which will help reduce the number of features or attributes you need to import.

Importing from different servers can be a great way to get different data. The best part about importing from servers is that MAPublisher allows you to filter as you import, just as you can when importing other file types. Crop or query the data as you see fit, regardless of where the data came from!

Cartographer Chronicles: Tom Patterson

The process of making maps can vary greatly depending on the cartographer and the purpose of the map. Tom Patterson, one of the cartographers behind the public domain data set Natural Earth and the popular website Shaded Relief, regards cartography as a creative process. He sees geospatial data as an artist would see paint on their palette. “They are raw materials from which the map is made,” says Patterson. “For me, the map making process starts with an online scavenger hunt for geospatial data, and ends with a visual depiction of the results of that scavenger hunt, a map.”

Patterson recently retired after 26 years with the U.S. National Park Service at the Harpers Ferry Center, located in West Virginia. Harpers Ferry Center is the media hub for the U.S. National Park Service, where most of the maps, exhibits, and publications for public consumption are produced.

Patterson is well-known for making maps with beautiful shaded relief effects, a technique that he has focused on for his entire career. It’s something he has a passion for and is a feature that he believes makes his maps unique. “When making a shaded relief, I go to great pains to portray the natural world in a beautiful and idealized manner, by combining shaded relief with land cover data, drop shadows, gradients and vignettes, with control and restraint,” says Patterson. “I ultimately want to create a shaded relief that readers will find attractive and which will blend harmoniously with the vector elements above.” Patterson prefers light, luminous colours for depicting terrain, and also tell a story. “A map is more than just a combination of points, lines, polygons, type and pixels. To me, a really good map is one that becomes much more than the sum of these parts,” he says. “Maps are an important form of communication, and they should effectively share the ideas of the cartographer to the map reader.”

When making graphically creative maps, you want to use tools that provide you with the most control. With MAPublisher, you can easily access and manipulate geospatial data using Adobe software. “MAPublisher and Geographic Imager bridge the gulf between graphical and GIS worlds.”

Patterson was an early-adopter of MAPublisher, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator after learning about it in 1996 at the annual North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) conference. If you’ve ever used the Natural Earth data, you might be interested to know that most of the vector elements were created with MAPublisher and Adobe Illustrator.

He was also integral in the development of Geographic Imager when during a presentation about manipulating Digital Raster Elevation Model (DEM) data he commented that having a MAPublisher-like software for Adobe Photoshop would be useful. “My suggestion was heard by the President of Avenza, Ted Florence, who was in the audience. He put me in touch with the software development team at Avenza to brainstorm ideas about a GIS plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. Geographic Imager was the eventual result of our discussions.”

Along with his many contributions to the cartographic community, Patterson has held some important positions as the former president and current Executive Director of NACIS. Patterson has created accessible, open source data for global use (Natural Earth), he recently contributed to a new map projection that is taking the cartography and GIS world by storm; Equal Earth. “This equal-area pseudo-cylindrical projection has gained traction rapidly—it seems that cartographers and map users alike have had an unfilled need for world maps depicting countries at true size and presented in a pleasing manner,” he quips.

As an accomplished and respected veteran of the field, we asked that what advice Patterson would give to new cartographers, finding their way? “Seek out advice,” he states. “Map design and production is mostly a solitary task, and any map you create will seem easy-to-understand and logical to you since you are the one who made it. But, your readers may not see it that way,” says Patterson. “The easiest way to avoid these potential ‘failures to communicate’ is by showing drafts of your maps to people that are not family and close friends.”

Another tip that Patterson has for fledgeling cartographers, is to give readers a reason to slow down and read your map. “The trick in today’s media-saturated environment is to design a map that will catch your reader’s eye, ignite their curiosity, and draw them in. Give the most emphasis to the information you want them to remember long after they put down your map.”

Cartographer Chronicles: Thorfinn Tait

Cartographer Chronicles Thorfinn Tait

A teacher by day and a cartographer by night, Thorfinn Tait (a native of Scotland) has been teaching high school in Japan for almost 20 years while making maps of fantasy lands in his spare time.

Mapping is a hobby for Tait, and his deep love of atlases, along with fantasy role-playing games (known as RPGs), helped drive him towards creating his own maps of fantasy worlds. He started in 2005, making maps in Adobe Illustrator. His goal was to create an atlas of a fantasy world, that included the same variety of maps that you’d find in any traditional world atlas — topographical, political, thematic — along with all the tables of data typically found in an atlas. He chose to map the world of Mystara, a popular Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign setting from the 80s and 90s.

Tait set out to compile all of the original maps of Mystara (more than 250 of them) into a cohesive whole. “One of my biggest struggles was trying to work out what projection Mystara’s maps used. But there was a fundamental disconnect for me in that Illustrator alone did not have the functions I needed,” says Tait. “For example, to change the projection of a map, I tried to use it in tandem with other GIS software, but it was very troublesome having to constantly import and export elements between programs.”

Map of Caldwen

While working on the Atlas of Mystara project, an original Mystara author made a return to the industry, and Tait volunteered to remake his maps in Illustrator. The year after, that same author commissioned Tait to map a new RPG world, the World of Calidar. Determined to avoid the same problems he’d encountered with Mystara, he began establishing dimensions of the new world and creating custom projections based on them. But, working between Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and GIS software was still very complicated.

World of Calidar

I managed to complete the first assignment with just those tools, but as soon as I got my first commission, I invested it right back into my maps by purchasing MAPublisher and Geographic Imager.” With MAPublisher, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator and Geographic Imager, a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Tait could work natively in both Illustrator and Photoshop.

“My favourite aspect of MAPublisher is without a doubt the custom coordinate system. It allows me to create resources for fantasy worlds just like they already exist for the real world, and then repurpose them across all of my maps,” says Tait. He also uses MAP Attributes and adds data to the world’s geography. “For example, it’s easy for me to track things like road and river lengths, land areas, dimensions of coastlines and political borders, and so on — MAPublisher calculates all of these things for me automatically.”

MAPublisher has allowed Tait to take his previous work and convert it to the newly established custom coordinate systems, without losing any of the GIS attributes he’d created over previous years. Tait also uses Geographic Imager to create Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) for the World of Calidar. DEMs can help bring maps to life, adding an intricate level of detail and depth.

The Great Caldera

Tait’s tagline for his freelance business is “Mapping fantastic worlds with real-world accuracy”. “I couldn’t do this without MAPublisher and Geographic Imager,” he says. “The software allows me to create and work with data for a fantasy world just like other people map the real world, the only difference is that I am creating all the data myself!”

“MAPublisher has truly expanded my horizons as a cartographer and has also changed the course of my projects. Without it, my current work would simply not be practical — in fact, probably not possible at all.”

Tait is currently working on georeferencing existing Mystara maps and tagging elements with their original sources. Check out more of his mapping projects on his website!

MAP Chart Themes: Doing More with Your Data

We all love a good choropleth map, but sometimes we need our map to display more than just different shades of colour to communicate more detailed information. MAP Chart Themes are the perfect way to distribute that extra bit of information that you want your readers to know. You can display the data in a bar chart format, or pie chart format. There’s even the option to have the charts change scale according to the data.

Say you have a map showing the population density of Toronto, like this map below.

MAP Theme Density Map

But, while this shows just the density of the population, you want to go more in-depth. For example, you want to look at all the ethnic origins of the residents of each neighbourhood. This is the perfect opportunity to use MAP Chart Themes.

To create a MAP Chart Theme, open the MAP Themes panel (Window > MAPublisher > MAP Themes) and click the + button to create a new Theme. Then choose Chart as the Theme type.

Create MAP Chart Theme
Once you’ve created your theme, now you can get to making your charts! You can use either bar charts or pie charts, choose whichever will show your data best. To show the variety of ethnic origins for the neighbourhoods in Toronto, I chose a pie chart.

MAP Chart Themes Settings

Select a layer, then click the Add Attribute button (the green plus icon) to add your attributes. Select the attribute you want to include in the chart, and style it as you see fit. The preview at the bottom will update as you make changes to the components of your chart. There are options to change the size of the chart, and even turn it into a donut chart!

MAP Chart Themes Donut Chart

If you want to include a title for your charts you can, but because my map contains so many charts in a relatively small area, I chose not too. Labels for the sections of the charts can also be added as well. Edit the test if necessary, and even label your pie charts with percentages if that helps to better communicate your data.

MAP Chart Themes Labels

My favourite feature is the Scaling option (button is on the right). This allows you to automatically scale the size of your charts based on attributes. You can set the scale by defining the value that represents 100%, then select an attribute, click Load and watch the magic happen. This feature is super handy especially if you’re creating a map with tight boundaries or not a lot of extra space because you can easily adjust the size of all charts at the same time.

MAP Chart Themes Scaling

Back to my example map, I set the scaling and applied the MAP Chart Theme. Since there are 140 neighbourhoods in Toronto, I chose an inset of the larger map to show how the scaling appears. You’ll see neighbourhoods with a higher population have a larger pie chart, while neighbourhoods with a lower population have a smaller chart.

MAP Chart Themes

The scaling feature works for bar charts as well. I created another map with data showing the total number of inter-province visits for each Canadian province in 2016 vs 2017. In this case, I chose not to change the scale of the charts (by total number of visits per province) so it’s easier to see the comparison.

MAP Chart Themes Bar Charts

If you’ve made it this far in the post, and have eagle-eyes you’ll notice that there are no charts for the Territories or the Maritime provinces. Since I only wanted to visualize the data for some of the provinces, I used the Ignore option in the MAP Chart Themes box. It’s handy when you want to exclude certain data, for any reason.

MAP Chart Themes Settings

There you have it! An easy way to visualize that extra data that your readers want to know, and you want to share without making your map overly complicated. Looking for more details on Chart Themes? Find it in the MAPublisher Documentation available on our website.