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

Cartographic Typography

In this chapter, you learned that typography is the art and technique of type placement, arrangement, and design for aesthetics, communication, and readability of written language. Because type is a significant component of every map, cartographic proficiency requires a basic understanding of typography. A skilled cartographer views lettering on a map as both a means to communicate language and as a visual variable, useful in establishing an effective visual hierarchy to reduce initial confusion and enhance communication.

For more information on typography, read the related section in Chapter 2.

On this map, you will practice working with type and label placement by choosing ten neighborhoods in the City of San Francisco. The purpose of these labels is to identify points of interest as well as provide a geographic frame of reference to the map reader.

In ArcMap, open the properties for the neighborhoods layer and navigate to the Labels tab. Near the top left corner of the Layer Properties window, check the box that says Label features in this layer. Use the drop-down menu next to the Label Field and choose nbrhood from the list of fields. When done, click OK.

An image of the labels tab for neighborhoods
The Labels tab provides many options for working with text.

ArcMap dynamically places labels on the map and does a passable job for many purposes. For advanced cartography, this only provides a place to start. Most projects require careful adjustments to label placement. For this map, these labels will only serve as a reference for you to choose ten place names. You will eventually turn off the automatic labels.

An image of the SF auto labels
Skilled cartographers use the automatic label placement only as a starting point.

In a previous tutorial, you learned how to activate toolbars. Activate the Draw toolbar and dock it at the top of the ArcMap window. Choose your first area of interest and click the Text tool on the Draw toolbar. The icon looks like the letter A. Add the label over the region of interest. If necessary, use the Zoom In tool on the Layout toolbar.

An image of the Golden Gate Park label
By default, ArcMap uses the Arial typeface for labels. Click to view the image in a larger size.

Don’t worry about the appearance and exact location for now. You will refine the labels later. Repeat these steps for the remainder of your chosen areas of interest. Be careful with your spelling. When done, open the neighborhoods layer properties and turn off the automatic labels by unchecking the box in the Labels tab.

It may also help to temporarily turn off the large datasets such as buildings and trees to speed up the drawing time in ArcMap. Be sure to turn them back on when finished with label placement.

In this chapter, you learned about typeface and font. A typeface encompasses style and symbology across an entire alphabet including letters, numbers, and punctuation. A font is a subset of a typeface. It describes a specific size and style of a typeface. Arial, Times, and Courier are all typefaces. Arial italic 10-point, Times regular 8-point, Courier bold 12-point, are all fonts because they describe a style (italic, regular, bold) and size (10, 8, and 12-point).

You also discovered that professional type designers classify typefaces into many distinct categories, often based on historical periods and geographic origin. For this tutorial, we will use three broad classifications, serif, sans serif, and display. Sans means without in French. Sans serif typefaces do not have any serifs at the end of stems, while serif typefaces do. Display is a catchall category of highly stylized typefaces used to catch the reader’s attention.

Cartographic convention suggests that you should limit the total number of typefaces on map. Typically, this means one serif and one sans serif typeface. In this instance, you may also use a display typeface for the poster title to convey a personality, elicit an emotion, or to catch the map-reader’s attention. Just be sure to never use display type for main map content.

You can edit individual labels by selecting the label, then by right-clicking on it to open the properties window.

An image of the Golden Gate Park label properties
The label properties window provides many options for working with text.

Click the Change Symbol button for more options. When Symbol Selector window opens, choose a sans serif typeface, a preliminary font size, and a color. When ready click OK, then Apply to preview your changes.

An image of the Symbol Selector
The Symbol Selector provides additional options for editing text.

If necessary, Change the Angle and Character Spacing. When ready, click OK.

An image of the Golden Gate Park label
The angle and character spacing follows the shape of the Golden Gate Park.

A halo is a drop-shadow effect placed under the text. Including a halo behind a label improves legibility by breaking up lines that cross through the text, such as the streets and MUNI routes. You add a halo effect by opening the label properties, clicking the Change Symbol button, then clicking the Edit Symbol button. When the Editor window appears, navigate to the Mask tab. Click the radio button next to Halo. The halo is white and sized at 2.0 by default. You can change the color by clicking on the Symbol button.

An image of the editor window for Golden Gate Park label
When choosing a halo color, pick one with high contrast or one that blends in with the map background.

The best strategy for picking halo color and weight is to determine if you need high contrast or if you need to blend in with the background. If you have a very busy background, a contrasting halo is often the best choice. If your background has a mostly uniform color with only a few linear features, choosing the same color as the background is a subtle improvement.

An image of the green halo
In this example, the halo matches the green background color of the park.