ArcGIS Living Atlas

How do I do that?

After 50+ years working as a cartographer, much of it dealing with complex reference maps for print as well as the online basemap work I do now, I’ve built-up quite a bit of experience. I’ve been through a number of technical and production evolutions  (as I discuss here), and I’ve taken an active role in the transition from manual to digital to online work (and beyond).

So how do I do that? This is an attempt to write down some of the things I have learnt over those years. I’ve created a series of Story Maps looking at different aspects of how I work and how I think. They deal with my personal working methods, and they are by no means the only way of reaching a final product.  Hopefully you find them useful, but ultimately you will need to work out what is best for you.

This blog links to them. There are two initially, with more to follow:


Southeast Pennsylvania, comparing print-ready maps with online basemaps

Planning and Executing a Map Project

Over time, I’ve developed my own techniques for getting started on a map or series of maps, and seeing the project through to its conclusion. This outlines what I have learnt.




Part of the LA Metro area, showing a transition from a monochrome map to full color

Working with Color

I’ve been working as a map designer for most of my career. Starting in black and white, then working in color for print (CMYK), to on-screen (RGB) and now online (HEX), I’ve developed a deep understanding of how color works on maps. Here are some of the techniques I use.




INverness, UK, showing a transition from full color to a representation of color vision deficiency

Building for Vision Deficiency

(Coming Soon)

I’ve been designing maps for many years, but it is only recently that I have started to consider accessibility as part of my decision making. An admission though – not all of the maps I build, even now, are accessible! I try to do what I can, but it’s a learning process for me as well. These are some techniques and guidelines that I try to work with.


LAnd Use map of Chicago, showing the 4 CMYK color separations

Maps and Printing

(Coming Soon)

It is only in the last 15 years that I’ve been working online. Before that my work was for print, and I’ve been in a good position to watch how things have changed. These are some of the techniques I used back in the ‘old’ days…

About the author

Andy is a Cartographic Designer who has been building maps for 50 years. He has been working with Esri in Redlands for 14 years, most recently on the creation of some of Esri's vector basemaps, and the development of color ramps for ArcGIS Online. Prior to Esri, he was Manager of Cartographic Design at Rand McNally, and before that a Senior Cartographer at GeoSystems/MapQuest. He is originally from England, and worked for a number of years at what is now the University of Derby before moving to the USA. Andy can be contacted at:

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