Smart Mapping Part 4: Pairing Data with Maps

There are many kinds of thematic maps and each is highly flexible in its design. This variety is a blessing because we can tell a seemingly endless number of geographic stories. It is also a curse because thematic cartography is so open-ended and dozens of decisions may have no single, obvious answer: should I use color ramps or proportional sizes? If size, which shape? How much generalization to apply? What about data classification?  Smart Mapping is designed to change all of that.

We infuse cartographic expertise directly into the ArcGIS workflow. For example, in ArcGIS Online if you choose ‘Change Style’ from your layer menu options you will see a list of drawing styles smart mapping considers suitable for the chosen attribute. Importantly, this list updates as the data you select changes – it is a live list that pairs data to the appropriate kinds of maps for those data. We all work faster when illogical or weak choices are eliminated.

A live gallery of mapping options (left side) seamlessly updates based on properties of your data: Point, line and area data each have their own choices, as do numeric and categorical data.

There are also important differences based on the geometry type of your layer.  What Smart Mapping chooses is based on the following rules:

By offering the most popular choices and eliminating cartographically unwise options, we have streamlined the authoring workflow. You can click the SELECT button at any time to change it. Smart mapping will calculate suitable settings for your new drawing style. We want to encourage you to try new mapping ideas, to feel confident moving beyond the defaults of the software, and to create beautiful maps.

Co-written with Adelheid Freitag, ArcGIS Online development team

About the author

Map nerd. Passionate about great design, teaching, and doing cool things with data.

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