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NACIS 2014 Conference Report

The 2014 North American Cartographic Information Society conference was held October 8-11 in Pittsburgh.  Jeff Blossom attended, and presented “1 Minute to 100,000 Years: Mapping The Out of Eden Walk Project”. View the slides.  The conference theme this year was cartography and time, with about 280 people attending.  Many attendees were independent map makers, using free and open source software. The first day was “practical cartography day” which was a full day of tips, workflows, and technologies used to make maps, presented by various cartographers.  Then there were 2 days of presentations, mostly on how to use different technologies such as Leaflet, QGIS, ArcGIS, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, MapBox, and CartoDB to make maps, but also panel discussions such as “the future of the map” and “visual analytics and big data”.  Overall there were many beautiful maps displayed, with much attention to map design and cartographic aspects.  Conference website:  Some notes and links from the conference are below.


Quick tips for cartographers, by John Nelson, IDV Solutions:

  • change default colors and styles chosen by ArcMap, QGIS, Google Earth
  • use graphs to show the data in another visual dimension
  • use sneaky legends (e.g. color type descriptions matching the symbol)
  • aggregate reluctantly
  • animate and show small multiple maps
  • use dot density instead of choropleth
  • be intentional about aesthetics, good design means take a 2nd, closer look.
  • Translate units into more understandable terms
  • Share the truth, which isn’t always a map
  • The density of your data can sometimes  be its own basemap
  • Use a manageable set of colors
  • Use context to differentiate color
  • Desaturate the satellite background to emphasize the foreground more
  • If you made it, put your name on it
  • Share your maps


Making typography better in ArcMap by using formatting tags.  Can also be used in the TOC to drive legend type.  Notepad++ set to XML highlighter will show these tags


Tutorials on how to achieve great looking shaded relief:


ESRI map journal for story maps was presented:


Map Box Vector tiles - vectors with the same numbering scheme as Web Mercater tiles that are ready to be rendered with styles. can be styled with Map Box Studio (formerly TileMill2)



Tip for exporting to Adobe Illustrator from ArcMap:  Set your export resolution to be divisible by 72, or you will get some raster effects.  Then in AI: release all masks by doing Object > Paths > Clean up.  Masking in AI is equivalent to halo's in ArcMap on type.


ArcGIS Pro – New software, to be included with the next ArcGIS release.  It will run parallel with ArcMap, 64 bit, integrated with AGS Online, 2d and 3d, simplified UI.  Reasons for building: improve drawing quality, allow .mxd and .sdx import, and addition of new items, integrate 2d/3d.  Features "de-coupled layouts" so you don't have to have multiple data frames.  Files organized into Projects, with Maps, Legends, Styles (including color brewer styles).  Batch changes to labels possible.


Bringing historic maps to life presentation by Matt Hampton, showed how to animate features on historic maps using Adobe After Effects, featured the esri spyglass tool, and a recreation of Lewis & Clark maps by digitizing contours and rendering in ArcScene.  View the presentation:


National Parks map – built with map box studio

Python workflow for updating tile generation, in PostGIS, using carto.css file, specifying scale dependent rendering (when parks should be rendered as polygons vs. points)


Interactive map projection selection tool, using Snyder’s selection guidelines


Advanced CartoCSS tricks, using TileMill2, which became Map Box Studio

-      Filtering out labels  by length

-      Drop shadows

-      Splitting labels from map (toner background)

-      Raster  blending:

Emergency Cartography by the American Red Cross

OSM for the desktop is used for interactive map mobile deployment, and OSM on  Garmin GPS devices. To save file size, export from AI to pdf, then export the pdf to png

Many other technologies used, see this presentation:



Using python to reverse engineer AI export to ArcGIS


PhilCarto free software

Mushroom maps possible, (plus other map creation types), neat chart creation options, only exports to AI, or EMF.


Using 4d time cubes and coxcombs in ArcGIS, by Kenneth Field, esri.  Minard’s map of Napoleans march was recreated in 3d:





Publication Date  October, 2014
Author(s)  Jeff Blossom
Publication type  Presentations