GIS Class Session Guide: 14 FEB 2017

Session Learning Goals

By the end of this class session, students should be able to:

Learning Exercise 1: How are map layouts and map uses connected?

We have all interacted with maps of various kinds: road maps, subway maps, maps of locations such as hospitals, amusement parks, campuses, etc. An effectively designed map provides the reader with the essential information to be conveyed without too much extraneous information which distracts from the core data represented in the map. Further, may introductory lessons in mapping suggest that EVERY map needs a north arrow and a scale and a legend. This is not necessarily the case.

Determine the layout of a map and its core features by considering the intended use of the map and the needs of the map's users: add sufficient map aids to make the intended use of the map as straightforward as possible without cluttering the design. Design for the most common use case and restrain the urge to over-clutter the layout.

Let's explore some well-designed maps with different uses to derive some design principles. Here are some

  1. What items should be placed in the legend for the map? (Hint: we need not provide a legend entry for every single type of map feature, so how do we choose?
  2. What types of navigation aids do you see on the maps you review (i.e. gridlines, compass roses, etc)? How do they differ? How do you decide which ones to add? Do any of the maps seem to contain an excess of navigation aids?
  3. Consider the spatial arrangement of the elements of the map. Step back and look at one side of the entire map. How are the features positioned relative to the edges and the less important features? How are the map aids (legend, text boxes) positioned relative to the features of the map? Could they be enhanced?
  4. Consider one of the highway or road maps: IN what ways are they different from the hiking maps? How are the maps labeled: are they readable? Are they useful labels? For what uses would a highway map be least useful? How would you edit the map to make it tailored to more than just highway drivers?
  5. Consider one of the hiking maps: how have the map makers tailored their design for the primary users of the map? What elements of the map are easiest to decipher? Which ones are more difficult to decipher?
  6. Consider one of the maritime maps: What details are included on these maps that aren't on the land navigation maps> How are features and ground elements different from the land navigation maps? What can you learn about how to effectively navigate at sea from only looking at these maps?
  7. KEY QUESTION: What principles of solid map design can you derive from this exercise of map comparison

Learning Exercise 2: ArcMap and Creating layouts

Layouts are a core tool of ArcMap which allow you to carefully prepare a map for printing and distribution. This includes positioning the map elements exactly as you wish as well as adding map aids such as legends, north arrows, graphs, etc. These core skills are detailed in Kurland and Gorr chapter 3 and we'll learn about them in class together.

  1. Choosing zoom visibility for different layers in the same map
  2. Navigating layout view
  3. Creating layout elements
  4. Positioning layout elements using map shape
  5. Editing legends

Exercise 3: Your Turn!

Follow these steps to practice your understanding of today's principles

  1. Create a new map and add the following layers: Data >> Pittsburgh >> CBD.gdb >> 1) Hispnts, outline, bldgs, streets
  2. Your goal is to create a map layout of historic sites in the downtown area for visitors to Pittsburgh. You should exercise good layout techniques by choosing which layers to display in your layout, how to label and color them, and what accessories to add to the map to orient the user.
  3. Export the layout to a JPEG file (file >> export map >> choose JPEG format) and attach it to an email to
  4. Before sending the email, please include a response to the following questions: 0) What are the key needs of the users of this map--ie. visitors to Pittsburgh? 1) What is the feature of the map and what decisions did you make to draw the user of the map to those features? 2) What are the ground elements and how did you symbolize them as such? 3) What accessory elements (legend, etc) did you consider but decided to LEAVE OUT of the map? What did you leave hem out?