As a student associate with the ECCE at SFU, I was allowed to take two free ESRI Canada instructor-led courses. One of these courses was Designing Maps with ArcGIS. I personally think that I have a pretty solid foundation but ArcGIS but I enrolled in this class with the hope that it would teach me about some relatively unknown tool or feature that exists in ArcGIS that would help me improve the appearances of my maps. That is exactly what this course did! It helped me address the issue of overlapping point symbols which has been a prevailing issue for a few of my recent GIS projects.

I’m pretty sure many of you have an issue where your data is dense in one particular area of your map and you’re having troubles trying to show all the features of that area without neglecting the other parts of your map. Common solutions have been to create an inset map or to play around with the scale. Another solution that was relatively unknown to me (and those I work with) is to use representations. Giving your data representations will allow you to edit the geometric properties of your dataset’s symbology without changing the true geometric properties of the data. You can see below how I was able to improve my map using representations. It was especially helpful in this case since the map didn’t have the room to allow for an inset map nor was it reasonable for the scale to be changed.

imageThe course also taught me about another unique tool in ArcGIS called Data Driven Pages. You can use Data Driven Pages to produce a series of maps centred on features within a data layer that you define. This tool was especially useful for me. One of my recent tasks required me to create a thematic map series for each of the member communities of Metro Vancouver (which consists of 21 municipalities, 1 electoral area, and 1 First Nations community!). Instead of having to create 23 separate maps, Data Driven Pages allowed me to create all 23 maps in a matter of minutes. I just had to set up the general layout.

For this blog post, I just wanted to bring attention to these wonderful tools for those of you who are new to GIS or are looking to improve their cartographic toolbox. I know these tools really would have helped me back when I first got started with GIS.

Happy Mapping Everyone!