Figure Preparation Guidelines

In the first lab, we gave you some pretty standard tips for how to prepare your static maps within ArcGIS (these guidelines do not apply to dynamic, interactive web maps). This week (and for the rest of the semester) we want you to think about the production of static maps in ArcGIS as just one aspect of building a professional quality figure. Occasionally, the maps you produce in the real world end up as stand-alone one page (8.5 x 11) maps. However, more often the map becomes either the figure or part of a figure that you may use in a:
  • Report (e.g. inserted in a word document but report with embedded figures is distributed as a PDF)
  • Manuscript / Journal Article (i.e. publication quality figures, which include maps are submitted as separate PDFs or EPS at high resolution)
  • On a web page (i.e. should be a *.png or *.jpeg; and may need to be displayed on main page at one size and a higher resolution version available when clicked on)
  • In a presentation (e.g. a PowerPoint talk... so a portrait layout will NOT fill page)
Our goal this semester is to get you to shift your thinking about what a map is.  Instead of creating standard "map" outputs in ArcMap, we want you to think about your map image as a building block from which you can produce any of the above figures.  Create the initial map image in ArcGIS, but do the bulk of your figure preparation in a proper vector graphics drawing program (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel Draw, Visio). There are many vector graphics drawing packages out there, including some web apps (e.g. Google Drawing in Drive). We tend to use Adobe Illustrator, because it is very powerful. However, it is also expensive.

In this class we will show you demos in Adobe Illustrator. You are welcome to use any drawing package you are comfortable with. Producing professional quality figures is an important skill, which should help you blow your competition away and impress prospective employers and/or clients.