ENVS 321 – Computer Cartography

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Environmental Studies 321: GIS II: Computer Cartography

The purpose of this course was to introduce students to computerized cartography and graphic design techniques & skills. Maps are powerful communication tools for describing geographic distributions and geographic relationships and this class covered various cartographic methods, as well as some of the limitations of graphic communication, for illustrating reports, papers, and theses. Topics covered include symbology, text (map annotation), layout and the use of color for cartography.

Lab 1 – Basics

This lab consisted of maps related to the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. This lab focused on the basics of cartographic design (map elements common to most maps such as a scale indicator and orientation) and the basics of ArcGIS Pro. The emphasis is on the use of the tools and properties for cartographic output: Setting the page size and parameters, selecting and working with basic symbols, working with the scale indicator, working with layer, map frame, and layout properties, modifying legends, etc.


Lab 2 – Symbols

This lab focused on the use of symbology to communicate spatial information. We were not allowed to use color to differentiate areas of the map. The purpose of this was to be able to have us use elements such as text and point symbology to make map elements stand out from one another.

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Our primary focus was on San Juan County but we also included some of the adjoining islands of Whatcom and Skagit Counties. This map had us focus on the difference that size of text and color of text can make. Again, no color was allowed.

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Similar to the second map, the focus here was to use annotation feature classes for labeling as well as being able to use color to differentiate map elements.

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Lab 3 – Text


This lab focused on the requirements and possibilities of the written word when used as part of a cartographic product. The two previous labs have given minimal attention to the text. Lettering, however, is one of the most common symbols found on maps.

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With this map we were tasked with coming up with our own symbology for the different camp sites of Sucia Island State Park. I chose to color code each camp site with a different color as seen in the legend. Our instructions were to symbolize every single point feature in our given file no matter what.

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Lab 4 – Color


This lab gave us our first opportunity to work with DEM data as well as bathymetric data. We were not allowed to use any black or grey to symbolize map elements aside from text. This became increasingly difficult as I went on as I found myself running out of colors to use. This gave me an appreciation for earlier labs where everything was black and white only. It goes to show how visually distracting and contrasting so much color in one single area can be.

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Lab 5 – Final


The purpose of this lab was to have the students come up with their own maps based on anything they’d like using the elements we had been learning about through our quarter. This first map I did was showing all of the major lakes and reservations in Washington state. My focus was mainly on the text aspect of the class which is something I enjoyed because of how detail oriented it can be.

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I did a similar theme with this map of Montana, but focused a bit more on the color aspect such as in lab 4. I included population density data along with National Parks. We were told to include multiple themes within these maps and to have them have a relationship with one another in terms of content and cartographic style.

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