Category: Cartography

The Preserve at Los Altos Trail Map

It’s been a while since I’ve worked with print media, I’ve been focused on web based mapping for the last couple of years.  This project turned out to be much more challenging than I anticipated. I have grown comfortable with displaying multiple levels of information through interactivity and dynamic visualizations. I sought out this project because I wanted to try my hand at a print map and thought it would be a challenging and rewarding experience.

The project was for The Preserve at Los Altos Resort in Costa Rica. They have access to a number of trails and wanted to provide a large format map that would be used to help orient guest to different beaches and amenities. The trail lines where collected via the resort manager and sent as KMZ files.  Along with the trail lines were amenity locations and other Points of Interest. I imported all of this into ArcMap for processing.  The trail lines were really detailed and contained a fair amount of noise, so they had to be cleaned up and organized.

Organizing and Making the Trail Lines 

The first step was to clean the lines as much as I could in ArcMap before exporting. I deleted slivers and made sure each line had the correct attributes (Easy, Medium, Hard). The difficulty levels were provided by the resort and were really important to include in the overall map. Other attributes included the name of the trail and the length. Along with the trails were the points of interest. These were simple points with the name and category (Lookout, Restaurant, Amenity). After the trails were in decent shape, I exported them to Adobe Illustrator for styling, by exporting them as a AI file.  Since Arcmap exports these as vector layers you can easily manipulate each line to fit your style in Illustrator. Some additional editing was done in Photoshop in the final stages of the design, which I talk about below.



Imagery for Basemap

A satellite image basemap was a necessity by the resort. They wanted their users to be able to pick out features and see the various beaches along the coastline. Thanks to my very talented colleague, Nathaniel Ayers at the DSL, we were able to take this Digital Globe imagery and apply Photoshop effects resulting in alterations to the imagery seen below. The original satellite image was adjusted to increase contrast and saturation, and bring out detail. The gradation in the ocean caused by compression was smoothed out, along with de-emphasizing/eliminating some features – boats, rocks that may distract the viewer once legends and text are added. When the color palette was finalized for text and labels, the base image was de-saturated by adding a Black and White adjustment layer, with some transparency to allow for a hint of color to remain.


Final styling and touches

I would like to thank the Spatial Community for their design critic and constructive feedback– especially The Map Smith— it wouldn’t have turned out the same without their help. If you haven’t joined, you are missing out on some great people and conversation! OK, back to the map. I combined my three layers (basemap, trails, and amenities) into a Photoshop file and added effects to the trails such as Bevel and Emboss.  I added the trail labels via legend and symbol method, instead of labels on the lines. This was after much debate and trial and error. I felt it made the map cleaner and more legible given the darkness and contrast of colors on the basemap.  Points of Interest were added using a light, hollow circle and beaches were labeled in blue with their distance from resort. Lastly the points of interest were added with photo’s provided by the resort and descriptions.


I am really happy how the map turned out, especially the high contrast of the trails, which was the subject of the map. I enjoyed the challenges of a print map and the discussions with other talented cartographers. There were many “failed attempts” that I haven’t shown in this write-up, but trust me, there were many. This was my first ArcMap/Adobe map and I’ve only scratched the surface of this powerful duo.


Happy Mapping!



Contemporary Cartographer?

After reading an article from Crain’s “The next hot job: Cartographer” I starting thinking about my background and how it ultimately lead me to mapping. I have struggled with calling myself a cartographer for a while because of my none-traditional background, until the other day. It seems I am not alone in what they consider “contemporary cartography”.  After looking back at my final Landscape Architecture project, I came to realize just how close Cartography and Landscape Architecture are in their most basic forms—representing data, designs, ideas, and issues in a visual form. This is at the heart of what Cartographers and Landscape Architects do.

I realized that elements found in most landscape Master Plans are just diagrams that help the user envision features in a geographic space. Could these be considered maps? What is a map? By definition a map is “a diagrammatic representation of an area of land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads, etc.” Let’s take a planting plan of a city park for example. It is a diagrammatic representation of an area where certain data “plants” are spatially located. We are starting to see cases where people are pushing the ideas of what a map actually is and I think having a non-traditional and diverse background is what has sparked innovation in “contemporary cartography” that the article speaks of. I am excited about the future of cartography in the fact that companies like Carto and Mapbox are providing the tools necessary for easily accessible mapping.

So it looks like I can attribute my excitement and interest in mapping to my Landscape Architecture training, because at the end of the day I am still helping people visualize things that are not easily understood with words and can only be seen in diagrammatic representations!

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