Data-driven map design with MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator

Sample map created by MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator

By Michael Law

Posted on 09-29-2020

For more than 25 years, MAPublisher® has been the standard map design solution for Adobe Illustrator, offering users GIS (geographic information systems) functionality in a graphic design environment. Traditionally, GIS software has offered users limited ability to manipulate the visual attributes (hue, brightness, saturation, transparency, line thickness, text, etc.) of geographic features. In contrast, graphic design software has treated geographic features as any other graphic elements, without regard for how they are connected in predictable ways to other geographic elements and to Earth itself. MAPublisher bridges the gap between the two worlds of GIS and graphic design software.

Empowering users with ‘map awareness’

Many GIS applications offer an Adobe Illustrator export option, proving that Illustrator has long been the preferred work environment for making maps. However, those exported files’ geographic information is lost once opened in Illustrator, essentially turning them into static “map illiterate” documents. MAPublisher maintains geographic properties of any data imported into Illustrator and maintains a “map awareness” where users can make unique design decisions using data-driven design tools.

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In the real world, natural or artificial boundaries and features are continually changing, and cartographers need to update maps at different scales and different styles to reflect these changes. For example, on a world map, an updated political border layer can be imported once and re-scaled or transformed using MAPublisher tools without having first to export it from a GIS software. A new trail dataset reflecting changes in trails and points of interest can be imported, and its labels on a trail map can be updated quickly using its attributes.

Sample trail map

Making data-driven map design decisions

MAPublisher allows you to work in a GIS environment from inside Adobe Illustrator. For example, you can bring in a census data set from a county, click on a block group in Adobe Illustrator, and open a MAPublisher panel to view its attributes, such as its name, identifier, or demographic makeup. You can see all the information assigned to the block group and use the data to create thematic maps or maps that show a specific theme’s spatial variability. Since Adobe Illustrator and MAPublisher work together seamlessly, you don’t need to exit the environment and go into another application to edit the source data.

Sample map of ethnic origins

Many maps start with data in a standard map projection. Using MAPublisher from the beginning with georeferenced data makes the entire map design process easier. Data can be quickly imported, split into different layers, have styles applied based on its attributes, and still be maintained at a high level of geographic accuracy. A map’s coordinate system can also be reprojected more easily, providing opportunities to create multiple inset maps in one document.

Sample map showing georeferenced data

High-quality results with map focused tools

Making quality maps that bring to life complex geospatial data requires a mix of science, art, and specialized tools to get it right. Working with a geographically aware MAPublisher document allows you to output to multiple formats, including geospatial PDF — a geographically aware PDF file. These geospatial PDFs can be used on mobile devices and in apps that use the embedded geographic data to show their real-time locations, even in the absence of a cellular data connection. To ensure compatibility, MAPublisher can also open geospatial PDFs made in other applications.

Other MAPublisher output capabilities include converting maps in a Web Mercator coordinate system to be compatible with web maps such as Google Maps. By exporting to web tiles, high-quality cartographic maps can be used in web mapping applications, with multiple scales.

MAPublisher helps graphic professionals and cartographers create beautiful maps by making it easier and more efficient in Adobe Illustrator. Recent attempts by other GIS software vendors to address the increasing demand for cartography and map creation within the Adobe environment is evidence that making maps in Adobe Illustrator is the preferred way to go. With MAPublisher leading the way for over 20 years, it is a workflow that is here to stay.

How to get MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator

MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator is now available in the Adobe Add-ons Marketplace to both Mac and Windows users. Alternatively, you can try MAPublisher by registering for a free trial.

Users ready to purchase can use the code AVENZAMAX10 at checkout on www.avenza.com for a 10 percent discount.

For additional information about MAPublisher for Adobe Illustrator, please refer to the following resources:

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