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NACIS XXV: Practical Cartography Day


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The following report on the North American Cartographic Information Society’s Practical Cartography Day was kindly provided by Martin Gamache:

This year’s Practical Cartography Day was organised by Steve Spindler and Erik Steiner who did an excellent job. Steve and Gerry Krieg presented on 3d building illustration using Illustrator and Sketchup. Gerry's tutorial on creating buildings is available online. Following this was a presentation by Nat Case of Hedberg Maps on using InDesign CS2 to generate complex indices from data stored in databases. He praised the virtues of InDesign with features such as tagged text and paragraph, character and nested styles.

The rest of the morning was given over to the Adobe team who came to demonstrate some new features of the CS2 suite and to adressing some of the cartographers’ concerns on all topics except the one we were all most curious about: the merger! They demonstrated the powerful Bridge interface as well as new features of Illustrator CS2 such as the new control palette, live trace and live paint.They demonstrated the power of nested symbols for global editability as well as numerous productivity shortcuts enabled by the creation of templates. A conversation with the engineer afterwards adressed my concerns of how Freehand will be merged into the Adobe family and he encouraged the cartography community to let our views known on which of Freehand’s features are important to us. Some of the audience members who have had issues with the new type engine also graphically illustrated to the Adobe folks what it was they were having issues with.

The afternoon session was taken up by a demonstration of Avenza’s new raster manipulation plug-in for Photoshop which allows one to reproject, resize and crop geo-aware rasters such as Geotiffs. The price point for this new tool will likely be around $500 US and the software is now in the beta-testing phase. This friendly tool promises to be useful for the non-GIS using cartographers out there.

Tom Patterson followed this up with a graphically wonderful (as always) presentation on his new dataset Natural Earth. I hesitate to say much about this as the website is very complete. The data is free and will save you alot of time and help you create beautiful color backgrounds.

Martin Gamache then gave a presentation on the use of overseas contractors for outsourcing digitizing. The discussion was interesting with many people expressing some concerns over the ethics of this while others were curious on the quality and cost issues associated with the practice. The basic lesson to keep in mind is to provide the contractors with a detailed data model and insist they deliver quality data to the standards defined by this data model.

Aileen Buckley and Charlie Frye of ESRI wrapped up the presentations with some information on database-driven labelling using Maplex. Audience members challenged their assertion that Maplex is now a standard part of Arcmap and Paul Harding of ESRI promised to pass on our request that Maplex be made a standard part of Arcmap. It was clear that the software can greatly improve automated label placement especially if data is created with a labelling hierachy in mind and properly setup. Although time consuming, some advance planning in a map series scenario is likely to lead to greater productivuty for those shops with access to the software.

The rest of the day was devoted to small group map critiques. This is by far my favourite NACIS event. It is a great opportunity to receive feedback from other cartographers, show off you work and see what both beginners and experts have been working on. One of the highlights was Jim Meacham’s Yellowstone Atlas project which he was showing off in a glossy proof of concept brochure. We wish him luck in bringing that project forward.

The evening finished off with the Map-Off which once again was well attended. Map design was the focus of this event and it was nice to see what teams and individuals from across the country are capable of.


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