A wide range of engineering and environmental projects can benefit from spatial and non-spatial information that is reliably communicated through cartographic maps and figures. These include government planning documentation, environmental consulting firms, forested-areas fire assessment reports, hydrology and geology studies, land use and parcel boundaries illustration, and for large-scale civil construction projects such as land reclamation or shoreline and marine projects.
A cartographic map is actually a scientific document that must contain certain information in order to be published as an actual map. This information includes:
- precise earth observations using civil and nautical surveying techniques
- mathematical projections of the earth’s spherical surface onto a flat medium or 3D model
- an accurate directional orientation to the earth’s magnetic poles (North Arrow)
- a descriptive title which explains the map’s region and the type of map (geographical, etc.)
- a legend to define the map-makers symbology being used on the map
- and a scale bar, which is vital for judging relative distances
Consulting with a cartographic map and figures service provider is an excellent way to provide project stakeholders with an accurate visual representation of land, water, air, population, and ideological features. A mapping service will have completed numerous projects representing a wide range of data interpretations for government reports or private land developers and will provide expert knowledge to generate the best mapping solution for your project needs:
- seamless import of raw data to create base maps, figures, or charts
- choosing an optimum visual hierarchy of information representation
- applying thematic elements and GIS principles to base maps
- creation of specialized maps – cadastral, hydrographic and topographic maps
Maps vs. Figures vs. Charts – What’s the Difference?
Often, reports, studies, published documents or technical drawings will use reference data in the form of base maps and theme maps. By removing the precise map indicators (as discussed above) and including other information, the base map is transformed into a reference figure. The figure is used to effectively communicate information or compare statistics between spatial and non-spatial data.
A map figure (versus a cartographic map) is typically not drawn to scale and can be manipulated to include highly-selective map data to clearly communicate a specific, intentional message – as opposed to a cartographic map which will provide no additional information such as:
- road conditions
- agricultural and soils patterns
- weather and climate delineations
- political boundaries
- demographic transitions
- disaster relief strategies
- population analysis
- other statistical data and comparisons
Navigational charts are also finding increased usage for offshore oil and gas construction, as well as near shore marine construction projects. While navigational charts have traditionally been used as working documents to plot an accurate course when traversing the open waters, they also contain detailed underwater information, such as:
- tidal levels to gauge the rise and fall of the sea
- water forms such as lakes, rivers, and streams
- draft levels to avoid underwater obstacles
- bottom clearances or known depths of navigation channels
Civil and structural engineering drafting involving the reclaiming of coastal land along with the re-direction of streams and waterways rely heavily on the information found in navigational charts to visualize waterway parameters that are invisible to the eye.
Accomplishing Visual Hierarchy in Cartographic Maps
The earth’s surface comprises a complex array of non-linear natural elements and man-made structures. Modern computer technology supplies us with robust hardware and advanced software algorithms to simultaneously display a complete analysis of manmade geographical information systems (GIS) and natural terrains.
But, the human mind is better able to digest this unordered volume of physical terrain information when it is combined with behavioral or abstract data; and when that data is presented in concrete quantities (sizes and shapes) and visual qualities (colors and textures). Figure-ground cartographic elements appropriate visual elements to create a hierarchy of information. In this way, cartographic maps and figures are created which are easy to read, along with information that is quickly understood.
Figure-ground mapping principles (termed differentiation, articulation, and contouring) utilize the same artistic theories that create depth perception, size discernment, and shape impressions in an artwork. These techniques subtly influence the map-readers mind into applying a perpetual recognition pattern which unmistakable distinguishes between the earth’s ground (or terrain) and other figures (or elements) that rest on move upon it.
By changing elemental color values, applying area contrasts of texture and pattern, and using open-line and closed-form contour boundaries, abutted ground elements are easily differentiated and the overall map will display intellectual hierarchies that promote important information to the foreground.
Extensive oil and natural gas pipeline operations will require figure-ground cartographic mapping for both the design layout and erection phases to successfully navigate hundreds of miles of underground and above-ground terrain
Using Thematic Maps to Limit Scope of Information
When abstract or ideological information needs to be communicated in respect to topographical areas, outsourced mapping services will create professional and accurate thematic maps to fit the client’s message and the targeted audience. A base map will overlay an abstract theme or statistical variance on top of mapped land geography. The theme map is then appropriately keyed (color-coded or patterned) and a representative legend is included to provide instant data comparisons or simulations.
Thematic maps require the skill of cartographers to combine multiple layers of GIS base map information such as borders and topographical terrains, with the client’s abstract raw data (or data that is taken from credible and reliable database sources). Theme maps are commonly used as figures and charts for the following purposes:
- government districting for legislation purposes
- agricultural conditions and livestock census for farmers and commodities trade
- population densities with may include age, racial, income, and other demographics
- parcel boundaries for land disputes or new construction
- disease migration and control patterns
- construction projects to show underground rock and soil formations
- wildlife and fish dispersions for game or research
Along with imported GIS data or aerial photography, and the statistical raw data used to communicate the maps prime objective, theme map creators use specific methods to provide emphasis for ease of map reading and information clarity. Graduated symbology, dot-spatial patterns, and shading or patterns are used to denote densities, volume, or various types of information on one single visual platform.
When your communications require one of the three following directives, a themed map will be an excellent choice for client, government, or public presentations or publications:
- To compare patterns between two or more sets of data or geographies
- To provide general information concerning a spatial or geographical area
- To provide multiple information sets about a specific location
Specialized Maps – Cadastral Plans, Hydrographic and Topographic Maps
Many projects which involve complex or large-scale industrial or city developments and underground or underwater construction efforts will depend on specialized maps for planning and approval before construction even begins. A qualified mapping service will be able to provide up-to-date, accurate maps for your next construction project including:
- Cadastral Plans will show the boundaries of land parcels along with last recorded market values, public record ownership and were originally created for purposes of land taxation. Whenever a new land parcel is created, a professional surveyor will record the land boundaries for government records. Today cadastral plans are a basis for new development plans and government land management programs.
- Hydrographic Maps will lay out the slopes and contours of underwater geographic terrains. These features are essential for oceanography studies, naval exercises, dredging operations and other offshore activities for marine construction, offshore exploration, and oil and gas drilling.
- Topographic Maps provide considerable information for earthwork projects such as quarries and tunnels where the nature and condition of rock and soil are detailed. A topographic map will generally offer a complete description of land use, including airports, railways, urban use, geographic features and manmade highways, buildings, and boundaries.