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Carto-Jargon 101: Cartography Terms Defined

The field of cartography is filled with jargon and terminology that can pose a challenge for newcomers learning to use mapping software such as MAPublisher to make beautiful maps, and those who don’t have a formal background in cartography. It also doesn’t make it easier when different software packages have their own variations on certain terms. To help the cause, we have compiled a short list of common cartography terms or “carto-jargon” that you may encounter while using MAPublisher or Geographic Imager.

Basemap

A basemap is a background image which can include aerial imagery, topography, terrain and streets and other fundamental layers and is used as a starting point to create a new map. The basemap is georeferenced and is usually the most accurate source of spatial information within the data system that makes up the finished map. Additional layers of data such as labels, symbols and paths are then added to the basemap to create the final product.  

Feature

Any real-world object that is represented on a map is a feature. Features can encompass large areas of a map, such as bodies of water and mountain ranges, or they can be discreet objects like parking areas, public washrooms or fire hydrants.

Attribute

Attribute data is information about spatial features and is stored in tables. It is also the information that specifies the appearance and labeling of features on a map. For example, the graphic attributes of a river might include the thickness of the line, line length, color, and the name used for labeling.

Control Point

A control point is a location on the map with known pixel (x,y) coordinates. Control points are used in georeferencing to allow for extrapolation of the relative location of other points whose exact coordinates may not be known.

Coordinate System

A coordinate system is a reference system used to represent the locations of geographic features on a map. It provides the basis for identifying locations on the earth’s surface. There are thousands of different coordinate systems, most of which are limited in use to highly specialized purposes.

Projection

The earth is not flat and so imagining that it is for the purpose of putting it on a 2-dimensional map results in some distortion. A projection is a method by which the curved surface of the earth is portrayed on a flat surface and is based on a mathematical transformation of the earth’s lines of longitude and latitude onto a plane. There are many different projections, each of which distorts distance, area, shape, and direction is some way, therefore no projection can result in a perfectly accurate flat map. Check out the Avenza Projections Guide for a more detailed information.

Georeferencing

Georeferencing involves aligning geographic data to a known coordinate system so it can be viewed, queried, and analyzed relative to other geographic data on the same map. Georeferencing may involve shifting, rotating, scaling, skewing, and in some cases warping, rubber sheeting, or orthorectifying the data to improve accuracy.

Graticules and grids

Graticules are the network of longitude and latitude lines on a map or chart that relates points on a map to their true locations on the earth. You can think of this a grid system – in fact, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. Graticules are derived from 3-dimensional ellipsoidal shape of the earth and are formed by the the lines of latitude (parallel lines circling the earth), and lines of longitude (non-parallel lines converging at the earth’s poles). A grid system is comprised of a set of parallel and perpendicular lines that are superimposed on a flat projection of the earth, creating an x,y coordinate system. An example of a grid system is the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system.

Themes

In MAPublisher, MAP Themes are a collection of thematic cartography tools designed to automate how styles and symbols are applied, charts are produced, and data is plotted. There are three themes which you can be customized to suit your needs: Stylesheet, Chart, and Dot Density. MAP Themes offer a lot of flexibility as they can be edited, applied, duplicated, automated, exported, and cleared without affecting the spatial referencing of map features.

This is just a small sampling of the more robust glossary of terms available in the our MAPublisher and Geographic Imager documentation packages.

Sources
http://www.avenza.com/help/mapublisher/10.1/index.html?whats_new_in_mapublisher.htm
http://www.avenza.com/help/geographic-imager/5.3/index.html?glossary.htm
https://www.gislounge.com/gis-dictionary/
http://geography.name/gridgraticule/

MAPublisher Features We Love

MAPublisher has been simplifying the process of making maps beautiful for cartographers for more than 20 years. We are always adding new features and improving others, some of which have impacted the overall workflow and affect a majority of users. Other are more ‘niche’ in their application and the functions they perform. Here are a few favourite features that you may, or may not be aware of, as identified by the people who helped design and build them.

MAP Tagger Tool Michael L. – Product Marketing
I like the MAP Tagger Tool because it’s incredibly fast to create labels by clicking features on the artboard. Labels are created using attribute data as a source for the labels. In dense areas, the Map Tagger has flexibility to style and attach leader lines according to placement rules.

MAP Web Author Will H. – Sales
The MAPublisher users I speak with are usually impressed with Web Author and are surprised that it is included in the MAPublisher package. MAP Web Author lets Adobe Illustrator documents with GIS attributes be exported to interactive HTML5 web maps complete with callouts, rollovers, layer control, search, pan and zoom controls. With a little bit of knowledge of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript you can embed interactive maps into any web page. The map below was created by the National Park Service.

MAPublisher MAP Web Author

Scale and Rotate by Attribute Andrew P. – Software Architect
We added this for a customer who had an interesting use case involving a pattern fill for lava flow. The map broke down an area into sub-areas by lava flow (direction, intensity, etc.). He wanted a way to use the attribute data he had in his map to automatically do a bunch of things he would otherwise have to do by hand, very carefully. In particular, he used the feature’s ability to rotate the pattern of area to match the lava flow direction, which sounded very cool (no pun intended) to us!

MAP Locations Tool Michael L. – Product Marketing
Most users don’t know what MAP Locations does (allows you to define real world coordinates for a location in a document) and how it’s actually useful. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually simple and far reaching throughout the product. MAP Locations can be used in several MAPublisher tools as references for georeferencing, for corners, for locations to draw lines, and locations to plot points. They can also be used to identify map and page anchors.

MAPublisher MAP Locations Tool

Add Calculated Data Andrew P. – Software Architect
Add Calculated Data is essentially a tool to update or add attribute data, but it allows users to feed in things that a user would find difficult to calculate themselves such as centroids, north angles, and art bounds. It also lets you pull in and store data like stroke or fill colours, in case you need to export them to a format that doesn’t support colours natively. You can even have it pull in elevation data!

The Avenza Resources Blog regularly published tips on how to use various MAPublisher tools. Detailed documentation is also available on our website.

Indexing Your Atlas Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

Whether you’re an experienced atlas maker or embarking on your first project, we all know producing an atlas is no small task. In short, an atlas consists of a series of maps and an associated index. Seeing that cartographic content often takes centre-stage, when planning your project it is easy to assume that the map-making process will be the most demanding. However, the proper indexing of map features is often by far the largest individual task when it comes to producing an atlas and can be quite burdensome.

You will be happy to know that MAPublisher 10.1 makes indexing that much easier with the addition of the Include Page Numbers option to the Make Index tool. This advanced option completely automates the indexing of page numbers while also enabling the indexing of two page maps on a single artboard.

For atlas makers, this new addition will streamline and improve the indexing process making it a key enhancement considering the primary function of an atlas index is to help the user locate features and points of interest on map pages.

Let’s take a look at a basic street atlas of Cochrane that was created using MAPublisher 10.1. Cochrane is a town located in Northern Ontario which is not only famous for its mascot Chimo but also for being the hometown of Tim Horton, founder of Canada’s largest coffee chain.

The atlas is divided into four sections: grid cells A1, A2, B1, and B2. Each cell contains two separate map pages numbered two through nine.

The following is a simple example which demonstrates the page indexing for atlas pages eight and nine found in grid cell B2.

Atlas makers can now index their page numbers as easy as one-two-three!

Step 1

To start, using the MAPublisher Grids & Graticules tool, generate an Index Grid with one column and one row (1×1). Although the Index Grid option was selected, the Graticules or Measured Grid options can also be used if it better suits your atlas design needs. Additionally, Cell Reference Labelling was enabled and the advanced labelling options were set as displayed.

Step 2

With your Index Grid created, access the Make Index tool which will initiate the map indexing process. Since we’re indexing streets in this example, we’ll go with the Make index based on feature position and attribute value. The feature position will be relative to which page or pages the street falls on while the attribute value will reflect the street’s name. In this example, streets which span two atlas pages have been highlighted with a yellow background on the map.

Step 3

Since a single artboard is being used to map features which span two atlas pages, the Advanced option Include Page Numbers will be enabled with a horizontal page layout dividing the artboard into page 8 and page 9.

Simply click OK twice and your atlas pages will be indexed with the results written to a delimited text file as displayed below. From here, this file can be formatted and refined within a software like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, Quark Xpress, etc.

Portion of the delimited text file output:

Same portion imported into Microsoft Excel:

Note: streets which span two pages have been highlighted to correspond to the map example.

By necessity, indexes are created towards the end of each project when atlas delivery deadlines are looming. It is therefore very important that the technology and methods used be robust and efficient. The introduction of the Include Page Numbers option has enhanced and simplified the map indexing process while meeting the specialized needs of atlas cartographers.

For more information see:

 

Update Your Legends (Even Existing Ones) Using Automatic Legend Update

With the release of MAPublisher 10.1, you no longer have to worry about recreating map legends every time you update them. Automatic Legend Update, available in the latest release, now allows for simple updating of an existing legend. Automatic Legend Update lets you update attribute data, or change the symbology/classification method/attribute field that is linked to a legend, and automatically have the legend update to reflect these changes – no more having to recreate the legend each time you want to change something! This is possible even with MAP Themes and Legends created in older MAPublisher versions once they are brought into the 10.1 environment.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how to open MAP Themes and Legends created in older versions of MAPublisher in the 10.1 environment in order to transform them into Automatic Legend Update. This example classifies populated places in Hawaii based on elevation. We will use the ‘Create MAP Theme Legend’ tool to create a copy of the legend, which by default will be set to automatically update. Any future changes applied to the associated MAP Theme will automatically be applied to the new legend.

Step 1

Open the MAP Themes panel from the MAPublisher toolbar. With the ‘Elevations of Places’ MAP Theme selected, click the ‘Create MAP Theme Legend’ button to create an Automatic Legend Update.

Step 2

You’ll be prompted to create a Legend layer if you don’t already have one. Click ‘Create Legend Layer’ to continue.

Step 3

Note the legend in the ‘Preview’ section and how the legend styling and symbology are preserved, thus saving time. Click the ‘Updating’ tab to see or change your Automatic Legend Update settings. The “Automatically update legend when source theme is applied” checkbox is checked by default. In this blog, we’re also going to check the option to “Match original legend extents” to maintain the size and extents of the legend so as to not change the map layout when items are added to the legend. Instead, the legend elements will change size in order to fit within the existing legend extents. “Maintain aspect ratio” is checked to make sure that the legend elements resize proportionally and a ‘Centre’ anchor allows the resizing to start from the centre of the elements. Once you’re satisfied with your settings, click ‘Create’.

This will create a new legend with Automatic Legend Update that can be moved to any location on the map.

Now that you have created a copy of the legend with Automatic Legend Update, your legend will update when changes are applied to the associated MAP Theme.

A legend characterises a map and MAPublisher 10.1 helps to keep it up to date.

Indexing Manually Labeled Maps Using Create Line From Text on Path

Do you have a street map that you’ve labeled by hand using ‘Type on a path’ that you want to index? Or have you used ‘Type on a path’ only to realize later that you still need those lines the text is now on? Without the original lines that the labels are on, it is not possible to make an index highlighting which grid cells are covered by which streets.

The new Text Utilities feature in MAPublisher 10.1, ‘Create line from text on a path’, allows you to recreate the lines that were originally used to create labels with ‘Type on a path’.

street map not indexed - MAPublisher 10.1

To use this tool to create indexes for maps you’ve labeled manually using ‘Type on a path’, navigate to Text Utilities on the MAPublisher Toolbar. Choose ‘Create line from text on a path’ as the Action item, and style the lines as you see fit.

Label options - MAPublisher 10.1

Create Line Dialog box - MAPublisher 10.1

After you run the tool, you will see your newly created lines on the map

Map with added lines - MAPublisher 10.1

The ‘Create line from text on path’ also creates an attribute in the line layer it creates, called ‘Text’. You can see the new attribute by highlighting the newly created line layer, and opening the attribute table.

attributes table - MAPublisher 10.1

The ‘Text’ attribute is what allows the street names to be shown in the index. Once you’ve created the lines (on an existing layer, or on a new layer), you can then create an index (Index tool on the MAPublisher toolbar). For your index, choose either ‘Make index based on label and matching feature position’ or, ‘Make index based on feature position and attribute value’. Be sure to choose ‘Text’ as the ‘Label matches attribute’ or ‘Attribute’, to get the right values for your index.

Make Index dialog box - MAPublisher 10.1

Once you have chosen your specific index requirements and settings, your index will be created with the street names (Text attribute) and the grid locations.

index created with grid locations - MAPublisher 10.1

MAPublisher 10.1 Released

We’re excited to announce that we’ve released MAPublisher 10.1 for Adobe Illustrator. The MAPublisher product team has been working closely with our customers to build these features to improve map design productivity.

MAPublisher 10.1

MAPublisher 10.1

This update contains new features and performance improvements as well as fixes for reported bugs. Some highlights are mentioned below, for the full release notes see below.

Automatically update existing legends when MAP Themes are modified. It’s here! MAP Theme legends are can now be automatically updated when legend items are updated in a theme. This is great time saver when you’re in the fine-tuning phase of selecting the right colour palette for your map and there is no need to manually update your legend.

Automatically update legends

New ability to create lines from text on a path. Creates a line based on a text on a path source. It’s useful for creating map features and to assist in indexing for manually created maps (i.e. scenarios where text was created manually instead of being created from attribute values). The text utility can be applied to text on a specific layer, on a specific MAP View, on the entire document or only selected text.

Create text on a path

New ability to include page numbers when creating indexes. In the Make Index tool, a new Include Page Numbers option provides the ability to split a single artboard (horizontally or vertically) at the middle point to make indexes that include a reference to a page (left or right, top or bottom). This feature is useful when a map spreads over a single artboard that is intended to be split into two pages in a final output (e.g. a spread in an atlas). Text and features that span both “pages” can be listed in the index as appearing on both pages (i.e. indexing the extents of the text or feature).

Make Index page numbers

Export to GPS Exchange format (GPX) now supported. MAPublisher has long supported GPX import and now supports GPX export. It’s a format that contains contain tracks, routes and points and used to exchange data between GPS units and mapping software. It is compatible with the Avenza Maps app and many other third-party applications.

MAPublisher GPX export

New ability to scale charts by radius. You now have the ability to scale MAP Chart Theme pie charts by radius, in addition to the existing method of using area. This provides another level of fine-tuning while adjusting charts to get proportional scaling correct. Remember that there are advanced scaling features available in the Scaling dialog box (just click the Scaling button). Learn more about chart scaling here.

Scale by radius

MAPublisher 10.1 Release Notes

  • Automatically update existing legends when MAP Themes are modified
  • New ability to create lines from text on a path
  • New ability to include page numbers when creating indexes
  • Export to GPS Exchange format (GPX) now supported
  • New ability to scale charts by radius
  • A number of user interface and usability enhancements.

 

It’s #NationalColdCutDay, So Here’s a Subway Subway Map of Toronto

March 3rd is National Cold Cut Day… so happy #NationalColdCutDay to you! Cold cuts have been around for more than 2,000 years and today, it is so ubiquitous that any populated place with a market or grocery store stocks it. Even more so, the up-rise of fast food provides the convenience of someone making a cold cut sandwich for you (even better!). Recently, we came across a subreddit called /r/subwaysubway – a collection of subway-style maps of Subway® sandwich restaurants. While most cities boast several dozen Subway locations, Toronto, ON has the density and population to support more than 200. So in honour of National Cold Cut Day, we’re going to create a Subway subway map of Toronto with some of our favourite mapping tools. While this is only meant to be a light-hearted project and not an authoritative source of all Subway locations, please forgive us if we missed a few locations. That said, we used some available web tools in combination with MAPublisher to create a mapping workflow that might inspire you to create your own Subway subway map.

Finding Subway locations

Finding all (most) of the Subway shops was easier said than done. A combination of several sources were used to achieve this. We used the MAPublisher feature called Find Places to scan areas of Toronto to search and import the Subway location point data. This task was performed several times, simply because of the high density of Subway locations in Toronto. In addition, the source provides useful attribute data including name, address, and neighbourhood fields that will be useful for labeling (more on that below).

MAPublisher Find Places - Subway locations

To verify these locations, we also used a web tool called overpass turbo that has some handy tools to build a query that searches OpenStreetMap and filters data that can be easily exported. We simply exported the queried locations as a KML file and used MAPublisher to import it. Unfortunately, these locations did not include any attribute data, however, there were several points included that the MAPublisher Find Places tool missed. We then searched Google Maps and the Subway website to verify several addresses that were missing in the attribute data. Again, we probably missed some locations, but this is supposed to be fun, right?

Overpass Turbo Subway query

With most of the sourcing completed, we end up with a map that looks like the one below. All the Subway restaurant locations can now be considered subway stations. We also used a Toronto boundary layer and streets layer from Open Data Toronto that was transformed to use a projection of NAD 83 / UTM Zone 17N with a -18 degree rotation at approximately 1:65,000 scale. The boundary and streets layer won’t be used in the final map, but helps when navigating the map, especially if you’re (un)familiar with the city.

Subway location imported into MAPublisher

Converting to a subway style map

Using a very liberal amount of cartographic license, we created MAP line layers and used the Adobe Illustrator pen tool to connect Subway locations to what felt natural based on knowledge of the city including following major roads, existing transit corridors, geography, and neighbourhoods. The downtown core was the most difficult to connect as it was densely populated with Subway shops (almost one at every major intersection — impressive), although it loosely represents the grid layout that the downtown core is actually based on.

After some quick connections, we created a MAP Theme to style for the Subway points layer. We created two styles: one for regular stations and one for interchange stations – where our fictional subway riders (eaters?) can transfer to another line. To mark stations as an interchange, we created a new boolean attribute that designates it as true or false. If the rule is true, then it uses a Interchange symbol to denote it as an interchange.

Station stylesheet

Once we felt like we had a solid coverage with interconnecting lines, we copied the Adobe Illustrator document to a new one, hid the boundary and street layers, and began the task of converting it into a styled subway map. For simplicity, we used a typical orthogonal method that employs lines at any multiple of 45 degrees. Needless to say, this took some time and patience as there are many points to align, nudge and decipher. This is where having the geographically accurate map, some of the online maps, and other sources to refer to was very handy.

Styled Subway Map

Compare it to the geographic version (some lines and points may have been moved or redone during the conversion to follow the orthogonal method).

Geographic station map

Labeling shouldn’t be tough, right?

We decided to use MAPublisher LabelPro, an intelligent and obstacle-detecting labeling engine, to label the subway stations because there are so many of them. With a little bit of setup, it can label the entire map in just a few seconds. Using the same rule used to designate stations as an interchange, we created two styles for the labels using the label filter. Interchange stations are slightly larger and have a bold font. We designated the label source to use the attributes from the Subway point layer, in this case, a neighbourhood name. Lastly, we designated the lines as obstacles so that LabelPro can detect whether a label will interfere with them or not.

Using MAP LabelPro to label stations

We also configured placement rules so that the stations have a preference to be labeled at bottom and top, and then at positions around the point if the first two aren’t possible. In addition, we specified a label offset so that the labels are placed more evenly without too much fine-tuning afterwards.

Station point rules

After LabelPro placement and some manual tweaking, the result is a cleanly labeled map. Here’s a detailed view.

Detailed station labels

While the neighbourhood attribute was unique in most cases, some dense areas such as downtown Toronto had station names repeat itself. In these instances, we relabeled them with its street name, a nearby landmark or park. This may not be the most accurate, but it was fun to come across neighbourhoods or areas we’ve never heard of and it allowed us to learn more about our own city.  Another great source to use was this Toronto neighbourhood map that allowed us to quickly verify which neighbourhood a particular Subway sandwich was in.

While we’re sure there are probably many more tweaks to make to this map and more stations to add, here’s our take on the Subway subway Map of Toronto. Make sure to click the links below to see the high-res PDF versions.

Toronto Subway subway map

Click to see the high-resolution PDF version

And in the spirit of traditional Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) maps, here’s one with a black background.

Toronto Subway subway map TTC style

Click to see the high-resolution PDF version

Additional resources

MAPublisher 10 Released

We’re excited to announce that we’ve released MAPublisher 10 for Adobe Illustrator. The MAPublisher product team has been working closely with our customers to build more useful features, tools, and to improve the look and feel.

MAPublisher 10

This update contains new features and performance improvements as well as fixes for reported bugs. Some highlights are mentioned below, for the full release notes see below.

Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud 2018 support. We are fully committed to providing the best map design tools seamlessly built into Adobe Illustrator. We have improved our user interface (panels, tools, buttons) to support high-resolution monitors. This release is fully compatible with the latest Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 on both Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) and Mac.

Manage Data Links. This feature has long been requested by our customers. You now have the ability to create and manage data links for MAPublisher documents. MAP layers in a document can be updated when its source data has been modified. Data links are checked automatically every time a document is opened and will display the status of affected layers in the MAP Views panel. This allows you to keep track of data that may have been moved or modified. When a data source is missing, a notification will alert you in both the Edit Data Link dialog box and MAP View panel. Note that only the link is dynamic and not the actual map features, meaning that manipulating your features in the document does not directly affect the source data. You will need to export your data if you want to overwrite your source data.

Filter attributes and filter geometry on import. A common workflow our customers encounter is trying to reduce the amount of data being imported. Often times, a dataset covers a much larger area or has too many attributes included. There is now a way to streamline import so that it’s not only quicker to import, but also results in improved Adobe Illustrator performance due to the reduction in the number of map features on the artboard. The new attribute filter helps you  select which layer attributes (or layers) to include or not include prior to import. The new geometry filter provides several options (including an interactive map) to help you select which area to include or not include prior to import.

Redesigned Scale Bar tool. We’ve worked a lot with our customers to redesign the scale bar tool. In addition to new customization options, new scale bar styles were generated with the help of the US National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center. You also now have the ability to save, import, and export scale bar styles, making it easier to share defined styles with others.

Improved MAP Tagger Tool. You now have the ability to create custom leader lines with various arrow styles and option to snap leader line to different positions around a label. This provides a new level of customization and efficiency without having to style leader lines afterwards.

New Simplify Art simplification method. A new Visvalingam-Whyatt simplification method and fault tolerance setting to accommodate positional error between shared edges in the topology. The Visvalingam-Whyatt method is an area based algorithm which eliminates points based on their effective area. By iterating through points of lines and areas, it calculates and removes the point with the least effective area.

 

MAPublisher 10 Release Notes

  • Fully compatible with the latest Adobe Illustrator CC 2018 on both Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) and Mac
  • New ability to create and manage data links for MAPublisher documents. MAP layers in a document can be updated when its source data has been modified.
  • New attribute filter capability to select which layers and attributes to include or exclude prior to import
  • New geometry filter capability to select which features to include or exclude prior to import
  • New scale bar styles and customization options including ability to save, import, and export scale bar styles
  • New Visvalingam-Whyatt simplification method and fault tolerance settings to simplify art
  • New MAP Tagger Tool ability to create custom leader lines with various arrow styles and an option to snap leader line to different positions around a label
  • A new Point Utilities action that can rotate points to the angle of latitude
  • A modified Text Utilities action that can draw a point for text based upon text alignment for indexing purposes
  • New settings for North Arrow location including True North and a custom coordinate and options to use Great Circle or compass method
  • New MAP Web Author HTML5 export customization options including adjustable scale bar
  • A number of user interface and usability enhancements.

 

The Best of Both Worlds – Map-making and GIS Functionalities in Adobe Illustrator

Original article from Directions Magazine on October 4, 2017.


Modern cartography—the art, science, and technology of making maps—consists of manipulating and displaying geographic elements in a graphic environment. Traditionally, GIS software has offered users limited ability to manipulate the graphic attributes (hue, brightness, saturation, transparency, line thickness, text, etc.) of geographic elements, while graphic design software has treated geographic features as it would any other graphic elements, without regard for how they are connected in predictable ways to other geographic elements and to Earth itself. Additionally, in the real world, natural or artificial boundaries and features are constantly changing and cartographers need to update maps at different scales and in different styles to reflect these changes. Therefore, cartographers need an efficient and reliable way to bridge the divide between GIS and graphic design software.

First launched 30 years ago, Adobe Illustrator has long been the professional standard for graphic design, especially for creating vector graphics. For more than 20 years, Avenza’s MAPublisher has provided extensive GIS functionality inside Adobe Illustrator. I discussed the synergy between these two programs with two experts:

  • David Lambert, Director of Cartographic Production for National Geographic’s commercial retail mapping products, which includes its well known Trails Illustrated outdoor recreation map series, and
  • Tom Patterson, Senior Cartographer at the National Park Service’s Harpers Ferry Center, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which designs most of the interpretive media that is found in national parks—including maps, brochures, outdoor signs, visitor center exhibits, films, and digital kiosks.

 

“Map Illiterate” vs. “Map Aware”

Image

In the past, many map makers have also used Macromedia FreeHand (acquired by Adobe in 2005 and since discontinued), CorelDRAW, Canvas, or even more recent entrants with a map-specific slant such as Ortelius, proving that a graphics environment has long been regarded as a good and viable one for their trade. As well, for many years, Esri has offered an Illustrator export option from its GIS products, proving that Illustrator, in particular, has long been the preferred work environment for making maps. However, Lambert points out that those files exported from Esri’s GIS products are devoid of geographic properties once imported into Illustrator. He has been with National Geographic for 21 years. His team used to work with Illustrator, which was already the graphic design standard, but used Esri software to design maps, which they then exported as Illustrator files from Esri and imported to Illustrator. “Once we brought that into the Illustrator format, it lost all geospatial awareness,” Lambert recalls. In essence, the file became “map illiterate.” In 2011, he switched to using MAPublisher after learning how easy it made it to incorporate GIS data into Illustrator workflows.

To explain the advantages of using MAPublisher to keep graphic elements “map aware”, Lambert cites three examples:

  1.  The Great Salt Lake has shrunk in size over the years. “Prior to 2010, somebody would export a lake boundary and then bring it into Adobe Illustrator, where it might be re-scaled and transformed with an Illustrator function to fit the area of another map,” Lambert recalls. Now, with MAPublisher, National Geographic can use the same lake boundary in its maps of Utah, of the United States, and of the world, in each case simply reprojecting it on the fly without having to first export it to GIS software.
  2. Many of National Geographic’s nearly 300 outdoor recreation maps overlap one another at different scales. When, for example, Great Smoky Mountain National Park produces a new trail dataset reflecting changes in trails, National Geographic can now incorporate those changes much more quickly than ever before by simply transforming them through different map projections in the geospatially-aware files.
  3. The boundary between Pakistan and India is constantly changing. National Geographic can now make each change just once, then move it from its world map to its map of Asia and other products.

 

Starting in a Common Projection

Image

National Geographic starts working on any new map products in MAPublisher. “We want to get off on the right foot, so we make sure that they are all in the common projection from the very beginning,” Lambert explains. His team uses MAPublisher right from the start to georeference files and then to incorporate additional GIS data from federal, state, and county agencies into them. “For example,” Lambert says, “if we get a data set from the National Park Service, we are able to quickly import it and split it into the different layers and styles throughout our entire map series. We can see which trails might be hiking trails, horse trails, or mountain biking trails and quickly apply our styles. We also receive information from the U.S. Geological Survey, such as national hydrological data sets.”

MAPublisher allows users to work in a GIS environment from inside Adobe Illustrator. For example, they can bring in a transportation data set from a county, then click on a road in Adobe Illustrator and bring up a MAPublisher viewing panel to display its attributes, such as its name, whether it is paved, and, if it is not, its clearance. “We can see all the information that these agencies are assigning to these different lines,” Lambert says. “Adobe Illustrator and MAPublisher work together seamlessly.” By contrast, he points out, with other programs you have to exit one and go into the other.

Reconciling Conflicting Data

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Most of Patterson’s work revolves around making those very familiar black-banded brochures that visitors receive when they enter a national park. He began using MAPublisher in the mid-1990s, when Avenza introduced version 1.0. “We had just started converting our maps from manual production to digital production using Adobe Illustrator as our primary drawing software,” he recalls. “Soon afterward, geospatial data started becoming more available and the quality greatly improved. Of course, we wanted some means to bring these data into the graphic environment of Adobe Illustrator. MAPublisher provided us with the ideal tool for doing just that.”

Early on, Patterson’s team only used MAPublisher to import geospatial vector data into Adobe Illustrator to produce non-georeferenced maps. As the years went by, however, it saw the value of creating entirely geo-referenced maps.

To create a new map of a national park, Patterson’s team begins with an Adobe Illustrator template that contains all of the map layers that it would use for a typical NPS map—including lines, area colors, symbols, and labels. For even greater efficiency, it employs targeted layers with graphical styles applied to them. “A big part of our process at the beginning,” he explains, “is going on an online digital scavenger hunt, essentially finding whatever data we can that is in the public domain, from which we can compile our maps. We then import these various geospatial data sets into the Adobe Illustrator environment with MAPublisher.”

“The most time consuming aspect of map production is reconciling conflicting data,” says Patterson. “For example, analyzing and fixing different road data sources that don’t match with one another is an arduous process. However, thanks to the data manipulation tools in MAPublisher—which allows us to select, sort, and manipulate data by attribute—this task is now much easier.”

Patterson’s team updates NPS maps every year or two or three, depending on each park’s popularity. Working with a geographically-aware MAPublisher document allows it to take the previous printing of its map and import new data into it, which then drops into place where it should. For example, if a park builds a new trail, the park GIS specialist will send Patterson’s team a shapefile for that trail that it can quickly and easily import using MAPublisher. “It just works seamlessly,” says Patterson. Additionally, almost all NPS maps have shade relief art in the background. “We generate the shaded relief and then manipulate it using Avenza’s Geographic Imager tool in Adobe Photoshop. The result is a geographically aware Photoshop file of the shaded relief, which MAPublisher will automatically register to map line work in Adobe Illustrator.”

Geospatial PDFs

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Another very important feature of Avenza’s software, Patterson says, is that it enables his team to save all of its printed maps as electronic files in geospatial PDF format for dissemination via the Avenza Maps app and accompanying digital map store direct to digital devices such as smart phones and tablets. Park visitors can then download and use these maps on their location-enabled mobile devices and, because the maps are geospatially aware, a little blue dot will show their location at all times as they explore a park, even in the absence of a cellular data connection.

Before publishing a new map of a national park, Patterson’s team typically field checks it, saved as a geospatial PDF, using the Avenza Maps app on an iPhone. “We refer to this draft map as we canvas the park,” Patterson says. “We can take notes right in the Avenza Maps app, drop locator pins, and record tracks. When finished field checking, we e-mail the data to ourselves and import it into the working map file through MAPublisher. The notes and tracks that we recorded in the field are used to update the final map, improving accuracy.”

One goal of Patterson’s team is to increase online access to NPS maps. “We are pretty excited about some of the new capabilities in MAPublisher,” says Patterson, “particularly, saving our park maps as Web tiles. We are going through a multi-year transformation right now, converting our maps from the UTM coordinate system to the Web Mercator coordinate system for compatibility with Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Apple Maps. We do all of this through the ‘Export Document to Web Tiles’ feature in MAPublisher, which is really pretty cool.”

Patterson’s team also recently began experimenting with MAPublisher’s Map Web Author tool, which allows quick and easy creation of data-rich and interactive HTML5 web maps from GIS data. It produced a prototype for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park that contains layered information and the ability to explore the map interactively. For example, it allows park visitors to compare contemporary photographs to those taken during the Civil War era at various viewpoints throughout the park.

Other Specialized Illustrator Plugins

There are dozens of plugins that extend Illustrator’s capabilities, for example to edit vector data, concatenate multiple paths, or precisely position nearby objects. Here is one list of Illustrator plugins. CADtools and VectorScribe are particularly noteworthy in this context, because they show that a professional base of CAD users like Illustrator as their working environment, just as GIS and mapping professionals do.

HotDoor’s CADtools 10 plugin provides an extensive set of CAD capabilities—including drawing, editing, labeling, dimensioning, transformation, creation, and utility tools—inside Illustrator. For example, users can insert dimensions or labels on objects, paths, or points in space, which update in real time in response to changes in the artwork. The can also move, transform, and measure objects with precision.

VectorScribe enables users to reduce file sizes by eliminating excess points while maintaining the shape of paths; slide points along paths, extends paths, or trim them; accomplish complex vector editing, such as adding points to tangencies, reverse paths, or smoothly connect curves to straight lines; edit corners on dynamic shapes; or dynamically measure distances and areas along paths.

Conclusions

The sources of geospatial data now include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS), the Internet of Things (IOT), and myriad consumer devices and, consequently, the amount of available geospatial data is growing exponentially. At the same time, professionals and consumers now expect location to be routinely embedded in everything they do on their digital devices. MAPublisher helps cartographers keep up with this accelerating cycle of supply and demand by making it easier and faster for them to make beautiful maps. Recent attempts by other GIS software vendors to address the increasing demand for cartography and map creation within the Adobe environment is evidence that making maps in Adobe Illustrator is the preferred way to go. With MAPublisher leading the way, it is a workflow that is here to stay.

Optimizing Point Symbol Placement with MAPublisher LabelPro

This post was contributed by Hans van der Maarel of Red Geographics.


The problem with using GIS data for point symbols is that depending on the scale and symbolization you often end up with symbols partly overlapping each other. Of course, the symbols can be manually moved around after initial placement to get a more aesthetically pleasing result, but that can be a tedious and time-intensive task.

Thankfully, there is a way to automate at least part of this process by using MAPublisher and LabelPro.

Example map of Breda, The Netherlands

This example shows the heart of an old European city (Breda in The Netherlands to be exact). The map is composed of Dutch Top10NL topographic base data, a few labels were manually added for larger features (such as the park), and points imported from OpenStreetMap (OSM) and styled using a Map Theme. As you can see, there are a number of spots where the symbols are densely located and overlap each other.

The MAPublisher LabelPro add-on is capable of collision-avoidance to make sure overlaps don’t happen. But it only works when generating labels (text). Fortunately, the solution is to trick LabelPro into processing symbols too, so that they can benefit from better placement without overlaps.

Let’s start by adding a column to the attributes to the OSM points layer and filling it with a default value, a capital O.

Thankfully, there is a way to automate at least part of this process by using MAPublisher and LabelPro.

Editing the attribute schema

Next, determine how big the symbols are. On the artboard, use the Type tool to place a capital O and adjust its size so that it’s about the same size as one of the point symbols. In this case, a 14 pt Futura Medium, shown here in red, seems to cover it well (your results might be different).

Determine the approximate font size

Futura is a good font in this case because the O is a perfect circle. Once you’ve determined the approximate font size to use, delete the O text as it won’t be needed anymore.

Next, set up the LabelPro labelling rules. Since there is already a layer with the manually placed labels and the symbols shouldn’t interfere with them, the manually placed labels will be designated as an obstacle layer. The symbols layer will be labelled with the attribute created earlier and the style set to the font and size that was just determined.

Set obstacle layer

Setting the appropriate rules partly depends on personal preference but it’s important to specify that the placement prefers the center position (position 1 on the placement control). In other words: if there’s enough space for placement, the label doesn’t need to be moved or offset. Another important rule to configure is that font reduction should be turned off. All of the labels (eventually symbols) are going to be a fixed and similar size.

Set placement point rules
Set fitting point rules

Also, another good practice is to specify a suppression layer. Any labels that can’t be placed with the rules set will be placed on the suppression layer. After placement, you can determine if any labels need to be adjusted manually.

Let’s label! Go ahead and label with these settings and afterward hide the original symbols layer and the suppression layer. The map is filled with O’s where the original symbols are located.

O labels placed

At first glance, this does not seem very useful, but closer inspection shows that the labels have retained the attributes of the original OSM point symbols.

Attributes migrated to the O labels

This means that if they can be turned back into points, they will be able to be styled!

In order to turn them back into points, a text reference point needs to be created. In other words: a little dot on the text selection line, in the center of the O. This is a two-step process. First, select all the O’s on the artboard, open MAPublisher Text Utilities, and set the Action to Set text alignment and Alignment to Center. This action changes the alignment of the text without changing the actual position of the text (due to LabelPro labeling the text alignment is different based on where the label ended up in relation to the original point). This step takes care of the horizontal positioning.

Set text alignment in MAPublisher Text Utilities

The second step is to adjust vertical positioning. Vertical positioning is adjusted by moving all text up by a certain distance. Make sure all the O’s are selected, then use the (Adobe Illustrator) Move tool. In the Position group, set the Horizontal to 0 (no adjustment here since Text Utilities was used), set the Vertical to minus half the text size (font size in this example was 14 pt, so a vertical adjustment of -7 pt), and the Angle to 90 degrees.

Use the Move panel to fine tune position

For reference, this example is zoomed into a symbol that did not get displaced.

Next, these labels need to be turned into point symbols. There is a handy option in MAPublisher Text Utilities that can do that, but it places a point to the lower left of the text and the symbols need to use the center text reference point that was just created. Instead, with all of the O labels selected, open the MAP Attributes panel and export the attribute table to a text file. Make sure to specify the option Export All Attributes because there are two important hidden attributes needed to make this work: #MapX and #MapY, which are the coordinates of the text reference point.

Export attributes to a .txt file
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Export attributes to a .txt file

Using MAPublisher Import, add the attributes text file that was just created to the map and make sure to appropriately specify #MapX and #MapY in the X and Y coordinate columns.

Import .txt file as Delimited XY

Since there is no projection information stored in the text file, you’ll need to specify that the coordinates are in the same system as the MAP View it’s coming from and you’ll need to add it to that MAP View upon import.

On the map, there is now a new point layer and because they still have all of their original attributes, the layer can simply be added to the MAP Theme to have all the point symbols reapplied to them instantly. Let’s admire the results:

Symbols reapplied with MAP Themes

If needed, repeat the last few steps for the suppressed labels as well (to a different file and different layer of course) to see what still needs to be done manually.