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thumb_designed_mapsMaps can communicate information and help people to understand places, processes and people in different geographical locations. The most effective maps are designed and include several cartographic elements. Designed Maps provides numerous helpful clues for users to create more effective and useful maps and several examples using different techniques are included.



Designed Maps

A Sourcebook for GIS Users



Cynthia A. Brewer

ESRI Press

170 pages; 2008 –  ISBN: 1589481607

29.16 USD / 18.50 Euro

Review by Jeff Thurston





While there are quite a few books that can be found which include maps. But it is much more difficult to find a book that describes how to make maps. Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users by Cynthia A. Brewer includes several maps created internationally and guides the reader on how to ‘learn to see’ maps as the author states. All maps are not the same. In fact, this book leaves the impression that maps may not only be designed, but they may have character as well.

This book is divided into two broad categories – reference maps and thematic maps. The first half of the book pertains to the reference mapping while the later includes more thematic mapping content. The first chapter deals with reference mapping which is often associated with topography and the general depiction of landform. The swisstopo example is intricately detailed and includes many of the elements Swiss maps are well-known for in terms of mountain terrain and topographic relief representation. By comparison, a forestry related map like the Oregon Department of Forestry example is oriented to forest management and is highlighted with shades of green and focused on administrative units.

Thus, in reading only a few pages of this book, the reader gains an understanding about the relationship of map creation to map users – and that maps are designed. They may be designed for forestry professionals, specific types of applications or even for designated areas where they are to be used. In each case they are designed for people to better understand regions or locations and information about those places.

Brewer explains alongside each map in the book how lines, administrative areas, labels, symbols and other cartographic elements can be used to understand places and different goals. Navigation maps are included for the City of Spokane, Oahu Transit Services, Michelin, AAA and T-Kartor of Sweden, as examples. Noticeable characteristics of navigation maps include distinct labels, amount and types of lines used for the representation of roads and other transportation corridors. The author uses ESRI ArcGIS 9.2 software and has provided ArcMap Tips beside selected maps for re-creating similar maps by readers in their own work.

Special Purpose Maps for visitor and recreation purposes, describe’s techniques such as emphasis, naming and black and white usage for designing easy-to-understand maps of this type. Also included are 3-D style maps with oblique angle views which can be used for navigation purposes. Contrast and saturation use are discussed and consistent orientation and alignment of labels is presented.

The print process is also mentioned in this book in several places. Through including this information, the author provides the reader with necessary information and understanding about hardcopy map production and how end products are generated. It also provides an appreciation of the relationship between print processes and map design. After all, faithful reproduction of maps from software through the print process can dramatically impact final map representation. As a result readers can interpret print processes and what may be achievable and the costs involved.

Other Special Purpose Maps include infrastructure maps which are typically large-scale and containing domain specific information and symbology. The map example of streets for New York City that may need resurfacing is fascinating, including line and width changes, colour gradients, road condition and lightness sequencing. This example, more than any other, highlights and underscores the value maps for infrastructure related work bring at a time when many folks believe a simple database query alone is all that is needed. There can be nothing simpler and more efficient for a utility worker than to view such a map and gain an understanding of the situation immediately.

Other common approaches for representing infrastructure include keeping maps pale so annotation and symbology are more noticeable and the reduction of housing size while expanding the size of service point symbology. The map from P2 Energy Solutions for Zapata County, Texas is striking for both its simplicity and elegant design of mineral lease information.

In the thematic mapping section, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region land use is reflective of maps we most commonly associate with thematic mapping by its use of bold colours and clearly divided land use areas. Most striking is the example provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service which depicts soil orders and includes soil profile columns from field sites. Other examples include the historical tracks of cyclones (1945-2006) by the Pacific Disaster Center which is intriguing for its fuzzy hair-like appearance, and provides a good overall glimpse into the vast number of cyclones which have occurred and their pathways over time. Meanwhile, it is easy to comprehend why air traffic controller’s have stressful jobs. As shown by the Las Vegas McCarran Airport tracking map, literally hundreds of aircraft ply the skies around the city’s airport daily, forming a tangled web of flight paths and directions.

The final chapter of this book is about quantitative mapping. These types of maps are often deemed the most attractive by many viewers because of their rich colour gradients, simplicity and the nature of their content. They often show bathymetry, rainfall amount across the landscape, snowdepth along topography, heights of trees in regions, income by neighbourhood and other information, which people know exists but cannot see. That is, it is often only appreciable through viewing it on a map. Maps like the Sweetwater Authority example, showing water sources by residential area are strangely interesting to view and comprehend. Bird species by ecoregion, as provided by CommEn Space depicts a region of the Columbia River and is another example of information which beckons one to ponder and think more deeply about what the map is presenting.

The book is aptly titled because it implies that maps are created to deliver a message through design elements. It guides readers to see cartographic products in terms of the information and understanding they can provide which often remains unavailable otherwise.

Designed Maps helps GIS users to produce maps attractive to the eye, awakening to the mind and resonating with effective representation of the real world. This book equips map makers with the tools and knowledge to build bridges of better spatial awareness visually.


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