Adobe, the holding-midfielder and unsung hero of Cartographic Design

As 2012 seemed too recent to test the brain cells, can anyone recall Spain’s Euro 2008 championship-winning team?

Villa and Torres upfront (easy); the control of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla in midfield combined with the technical brilliance of Andres Iniesta and even a young, creative David Silva from the bench; Casillas in goal, obviously; and a back four of Carlos Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila and Sergio Ramos.

So, how many of you forgot about the midfield reliability of Marcos Senna?

Actually born in Sao Paulo (Brazil) he played 292 times for Villarreal and won 28 caps for Spain. Aside from being rested for the final group game as Spain had already both qualified and topped the group, he played every single minute of Spain’s Euros, not substituted once.

In our industry, when we share our excitement of new developments or when we acknowledge the part played in helping us achieve our goals in cartography, we increasingly like to Tweet or share about what we’ve done in or what new tech or tools have been added to Mapbox, QGIS or what-have-you. But the truth of the matter is this: as much as the developer-led, geo-hipster generation might like you to think otherwise, most of us still use and depend upon Adobe’s Creative Suite or Creative Cloud as part of our daily routines.

Even at OS, where we regularly use emerging tech and often run Mapbox or QGIS-based masterclasses; from cycle routes to visualisations, we frequently – in-fact nearly always – turn to Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop both out of necessity, i.e. its superior ability to handle and successfully export large volumes of data or akward patterns, effects or transparencies; and because it is the best software for cartographic finishing and publishing that we know of. That all combined with my previous post on line digitising and how easy it is to create marginalia, legends and so on. Furthermore, our graphic designers heavily use Adobe InDesign and the whole suite is of course scriptable if you’re that way inclined.

‘The Mars Map’, primarily made in ArcGIS, but ‘designed’ in Adobe Creative Suite.
Digitising cycle routes for the Tour of Britain and Tour de France, done in Adobe Illustrator.
Visualising the settlement of EU migrants to England and Wales, data prepared in MS Office and various GIS but all the design work done in Adobe Creative Suite.

I have been working hard on another one-off paper map sheet that I hope OS will showcase next month as it celebrates its 225th birthday. In the next blog post I intend to share some of the top tutorials and tips for Adobe software that I have learned over the years, a number of which were heavily put to use on this map.

It may also be of interest to note that Stuart Gill (Coventry University) is running an Adobe Clinic at the upcoming BCS – SoC Conference 2016 in September.

Incidentally ESRI are also running a workshop at the same event aiming to ‘debunk the very tired myth that you can’t use ArcGIS as a full pipeline for professional cartography.’ I massively applaud the work of all the peeps at ESRI and on a recent debate on the SoC email chain I defended the GIS world and confirmed that you can indeed create maps from start to finish in ESRI software, in fact at OS we sometimes do: but the fact remains that I cannot create all that I wish to in a GIS, nor in a web application. Just look at the credits for the ‘better’ maps in an ESRI map book of NACIS atlas for confirmation. The development of an ‘ArcGIS Maps For Adobe Creative Cloud’ application is also quite intriguing.

So for what it’s worth, I firmly believe that while all the newer techs deserve their due credit, the cartographic design world should not forget about Adobe and the role that it plays in helping us to create some truly awesome maps. I plan to keep it in my toolkit for some time to come.


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