Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users

By Adena Schutzberg

_Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users
by Cynthia A.Brewer
ESRI Press, 2005

If you are a GIS person who has a geography degree, it's likely you studied cartography.And, if you are of "my generation" you did it with pen and ink.My class spent hours one spring in the "cart lab" on our creations, all black and white, seeking that elusive "A." I think most of us learned quite a lot.If you jumped into GIS from another discipline, such as business, forestry or real estate, you may never have been exposed to a formal cartography class.But fear not, you can catch up painlessly with an easy to read book from ESRI Press.

Cynthia Brewer has taught cartography for 20 years and created the Penn State edition of one of ESRI's Virtual Campus classes on cartography. It's from that online course that her book evolved.Part "how to," part reference manual, the 200 page Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users covers all the basics of cartography in a very focused way aimed at practitioners.Don't expect a complete discussion on projections, but rather "rules of thumb" on which to use for which type of map.And, while all the examples are created with ESRI software and ArcMap is mentioned now and again, this is not an ESRI-centric book. It's accessible and valuable to anyone using automation software for mapping.You need simply bear in mind that tools like ArcView or MapInfo are likely to have more advanced cartographic tools than say, AutoCAD.

There's coverage of layouts, fonts, colors, labeling, symbology, projections and scale bars including lots of full color examples. There's some very straightforward language about maps with excessive use of fonts with decorative elements: "They [...] look fairly silly." There's advice on getting feedback from colleagues and discussions of raster formats and resolution.(As a former editor of print publication, I appreciate that!)

I've not run into the technique where you highlight white space by "coloring it in." This process gives you a good sense as to where the space is and how well it's distributed.That "trick" comes up in a discussion on the use of boxes around map elements.

There are two things missing that I believe would be most helpful to the new or not cartographically trained mapmaker: a glossary and an index.With those, this book would be a perfect "at my right hand" reference book.

Published Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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