Smart Mapping Workflows

Your world is full of data, and maps help you to make sense of it. There is a growing need to turn geographic data into compelling maps. All users want to create beautiful, interactive maps and infographics with live data, easily and with confidence. The smart mapping mission is to provide a new kind of strong “cartographic artificial intelligence” that enables virtually anyone to visually analyze, create, and share professional quality maps in just a few minutes, with minimal mapping knowledge or software skills.
Smart mapping is designed to give ArcGIS users the confidence and ability to quickly make maps that are visually pleasing and effective. Cartographic expertise is “baked” into ArcGIS, meaning it is part of the fundamental user experience of using ArcGIS. The map results that you see in front of you are driven by the nature of the data itself, the kind of map you want to create, and the kind of story you want to tell.

The best thematic maps apply thoughtful analysis of the underlying data to a set of map parameters designed to bring focus and clarity to the topic. Here, the author has positioned the handles controlling symbol size (running beside the histogram) to emphasize areas with household incomes over $100,000. Great maps relate the data back to the real world, using visual cues that immediately highlight the message you want to convey.
By taking the guesswork out of all of the settings and choices that you could conceivably tweak, your initial map results are cartographically appropriate and look wonderful. You can always change things at will, which you’ll undoubtedly do as you gain more experience, but smart mapping gets you to something effective very quickly. You spend less time iterating and wrangling your maps into fulfilling your intention.
The point is not to take control away from map authors or dumb down the map-authoring experience, but to be smarter about how all of the initial parameters of the map (color, scale, styling, etc.) are established. For example, each of the Esri basemaps (Streets, Dark Gray Canvas, Topographic, etc.) were paired with several multi-hue color schemes that can be used as the defaults for your operational layers. This way you know your map will look good right out of the box without needing any adjustments.
Mapping professionals still have full control and the ability to extend the default capabilities to create unique customizations and truly exquisite, publication-quality cartography.


This post is excerpted from The ArcGIS Book: 10 Big Ideas about Applying Geography to Your World. The twin goals of this book are to open your eyes to what is now possible with Web GIS, and then spur you into action by putting the technology and deep data resources in your hands. The book is available through and other booksellers, and is also available at for free.

Next Article

The Science of Where for Sustainable Development Webinar Series

Read this article