Designing a Basemap

Table of Contents

  1. Designing a Basemap
  2. Setting Up Your Workspace
  3. Download Data from the DataSF Website
  4. Refreshing a Folder in the Catalog Tree
  5. Changing the Map Projection of the Data Frame
  6. Changing the Map Size and Position
  7. Preparing the Layout
  8. Adjusting Line Weight and Color
  9. Cartographic Typography
  10. Skill Drill: Practicing Cartographic Typography
  11. Skill Drill: Choose a Map Theme
  12. Skill Drill: Finalizing the Poster

Preparing the Layout

Before delving into the cartographic design of the San Francisco Basemap, it is essential to understand its relationship and placement relative to the other elements on the poster. In a typical workflow, many cartographers will create one or more rough mockups on scratch paper as a first step in the design process. Though it may seem like an extra step, this process can save you time.

A rough sketch of the poster layout.
A rough sketch of the poster layout.

This tutorial provides a specific layout for you, so you will not need to make sketches. However, it is essential to know that this element in the workflow can be useful.

The next step in the layout process is positioning the features on the map and setting the map scale. In ArcMap, uncheck all of the layers in the Table of Contents except for the shoreline. Unchecking the layers will make ArcMap run a little faster since it will not have to draw so many complex features.

To see the poster design clearly and improve efficiency, maximize the ArcMap program on your monitor. Minimize the Catalog Window by clicking on the pushpin icon. On the Layout toolbar, click the Zoom to Whole Page button. The layout should now take up most of your screen. In the next few steps, you use tools from the Standard toolbar, the Tools toolbar, and the Layout toolbar to set the map extent and position the City of San Francisco within the data frame.

An image of the SF layout maximized
Maximizing your view of the layout improves efficiency. Click to view the image in a larger size.

Using the Zoom In and Zoom Out on the Tools toolbar, zoom into the City of San Francisco so that it is visible within the data frame. Do not worry about any of the islands for now.

representative fraction (RF) is the ratio between the map distance and the ground distance and determines the scale for the map. You will learn more about representative fractions and map scale in a later chapter. For now, enter 1:40,000 for the RF on the Standard toolbar.

An image of the SF RF
A representative fraction (RF) is the ratio between the map distance and the ground distance.

Use the Zoom In tool on the Layout toolbar and zoom into the space on the page just under the data frame. Be careful not to use the wrong zoom tool, or you will change the map scale. On the Tools toolbar, use the Pan tool to move the shoreline layer to the bottom-center of the data frame. The goal is to try to cover up where the data ends. You want to give the impression that the land continues south beyond the map.

An image of SF aligned to data frame
The bottom edge of the shoreline layer is hidden from view.

When done, use the Zoom to Whole Page tool to view the entire poster. Create a spatial bookmark. A bookmark is an easy way to save the map scale and position information if you accidentally move the map while you work. From the Main Menu across the top, select Bookmarks, then choose Create Bookmark. Name the bookmark “City of San Francisco.”

An image of the SF bookmark
A bookmark saves the map scale and position information.

Before moving on to the next step, try out the bookmark by intentionally moving the position of the shoreline layer within the data frame. Then, use the bookmark to return to your saved position.

In this chapter, you learned about borders and neatlines. A map border is usually a rectangular box that delineates a map and all elements within. A neatline is a type of border, which delineates the geographic extent of the map content. It is acceptable practice to have map elements reside between the border and the neatline. In this instance, the default border around the dataframe serves as a neatline because it delineates the geographic extent of the map.

In a previous tutorial, you learned how to change the background and border color of the data frame. Open the data frame properties and navigate to the Frame tab. Change the Border to a thickness of 4.0 and choose a border color. Change the background color to your choice of blue.

From the Main Menu choose Insert, then Neatline. When the Neatline Window opens, click the radio button next to Place inside margins. Change the Gap to 0. For the background choose a very light and neutral color such as Grey 10%.  When ready, click OK.

You can use the Neatline window to create a background for the poster.

As you can see, the element you just placed on the poster is technically not a neatline. In this step, you use the tool to create a background color for the poster.

An image of the poster background color
The background colors help to define the boundaries between the map and the poster page.