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#494 The Handcrafted Digital Map


Dennis McClendon, Design Director, Chicago CartoGraphics

GIS is powerful, but sometimes it can be like using a chainsaw to make a birdhouse. Chicago cartographer Dennis McClendon will look at how a composite approach—using the strengths of both GIS and Illustrator—can be the best way to produce good-looking and meaningful maps.

We’ve understood for decades that lessening cognitive load or “eye noise” improves communication, and that all map representations have an intrinsic scale. Though we now have wonderfully precise geodata, it’s not always beautiful to look at. Generalization algorithms can save us a lot of labor with certain types of features—but aren’t very good with other types. This has led McClendon to “embrace the trace”—to invest the time required to redraw certain types of features so that it matches geodata at a known scale and projection, especially for areas he’ll revisit on many different projects. With that groundwork laid, he can easily add large or tedious data sets and have it match up with an elegant basemap for a handsome final product.

ASL This event will not have an American Sign Language interpreter.