About Mapping Center

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Executive Summary
Mapping Center is a Web site with information about and resources for mapping with ArcGIS. Mapping Center is intended to crosscut GIS and cartography with best practices documentation for mapping with Esri software and descriptions of related and relevant cartographic concepts. Mapping Center supports users who need to know how to accomplish a wide range of mapping tasks.

Mapping Center has two primary modes of information delivery: 1) interactive Blog and Ask a Cartographer sections as well as many opportunities for comments throughout the site to encourage discussion between our users and Esri employees involved in various aspects of mapping, and 2) an archive of our best practices and guidelines, as well as resources related to map making and cartography. The Blog is a place where users can post relevant information (such as solutions they have discovered) and the Ask a Cartographer section is a place where they send us problems they need answers to. The Maps and Downloads sections are our archives where users can find instructions and resources (e.g., data sets, styles, expressions and statements, descriptions of how to achieve particular cartographic effects) to solve their mapping problems and challenges. In addition, Mapping Center provides links to existing Esri resources, as well as other online resources that cartographers find useful on a regular basis.

Finally, Mapping Center also plays a larger role, which is to better connect and strengthen ties between the disciplines of cartography and GIS by supporting the growing mapping community of GIS users and the increasing number of cartographers using GIS.
Who developed Mapping Center?
The Cartographic Research and Special Projects Group developed the Mapping Center Web site, but people from many other groups within Esri also contribute to its content. If you are not familiar with us, we are now called the Mapping Center and Cartographic Projects Group. Part of our mission is to teach people how to make great maps with ArcGIS software and commonly used extensions—that is, to employ when using GIS the same concepts that professional cartographers use. We have been developing and delivering content to users for the since before 2003, and we hope we have learned to teach map making to GIS users with some measure of success!
Why did we develop Mapping Center?
We realized some time ago that the places we could publish content relating to mapping on the Esri Web site was restrictive—the majority of our content ended up on the Basemap Data Model Web Page. Aside from space restrictions there, the content was not all data model-related. We also posted content on the Knowledge Base and the Geoprocessing Web sites. But the combination of these still did not allow us to deliver all that relates to mapping, such as styles; statements and expressions; example data sets; map documents (.mxds); PDFs of maps; step-by-step instructions; and other resources, such as content delivered in Esri Training, and helpful books from Esri Press. The resources relating to mapping on the Esri Web site were incomplete and too dispersed for someone looking for many of their specific answers to questions about mapping with ArcGIS software. So we conceived of Mapping Center after seeing the old Project Center unfold. While the initial content pertained more to printed map products (since that is what we already had documentation and resources compiled for), the content is shifting now towards more interactive and 3D maps. We will of course continue to provide support for print and online static maps, but, as mapping technology and techniques changes, we will keep up with the latest developments and help you do the same.

Who was Mapping Center created for?
Mapping Center was designed and developed for all people making maps with ArcGIS software, from novice map makers to expert cartographers. We assume some level of basic GIS capability, but we do not assume any knowledge of cartography. That said, we want the Web site to hold appeal for newcomers to the map making experience as well as experts in the field of cartography. This is a lot of ground to cover, so we are taking an approach that will allow Mapping Center to expand in the future in response to users’ needs and developments in GIS, mapping and related fields.
What are the objectives for Mapping Center?
This can be answered in terms of 1) content and 2) design. In terms of content (or the substantive objective, as cartographers call it), we want to present real answers to real map-making problems – that is, we take a problem-solving, user-centric approach – not a software-centric approach with problems selected to showcase GIS capabilities. We offer users an opportunity to interact with people inside Esri through the Blog and Ask a Cartographer, as well as comments throughout the Web site. Through our archives, we present content in a largely conversational mode, avoiding "software online help"-sounding explanations of how to complete various mapping tasks with GIS. At the same time, we strive to avoiding "cartography professor"-sounding explanations of why you would want to do the task in the first place.

In terms of design (or affective objective, as in "affect", as cartographers call it), since maps are a graphic form of communication, we want the Web site to be as graphic as possible. For example, when explaining a problem along with its solution, we often present a before and after set of images that illustrate the cartographic effect we are going for, followed by a clear explanation of how the effect will look on the map. The Maps part of the Web site leads the user to the content through maps and graphic examples of the cartographic effects that we explain. We try to illustrate solutions on the Blog and Ask a Cartographer when this is helpful.
What guiding principles did we follow in developing Mapping Center?
First and foremost, we took a solution-driven approach – help real people with their real problems for the real data. Second, “What, Why, How” – each cartographic problem is presented starting with what the solution is, then why you would do it (the underlying cartographic theory expressed in layman’s terms) then how it is done. Third, Active Learning – that is, engaging the user in doing the task, not just reading about it. Fourth, teach the users to think like a cartographer, so that they can begin to answer mapping questions on their own in the future.
What did all this lead us to develop?
A Web site with a blog/forum for users to interact with us and for us to respond to and interact with them. A site with many intra-site and inter-site links. A task-oriented presentation of how to achieve selected cartographic effects that overcome specific cartographic challenges (there is always more than one way to skin a cat – we don’t describe them all). Examples based on maps we have created that follow good cartographic convention and would get the thumbs up from a professional cartographer. The presentation of content along with relevant related resources (data, styles, expressions, statements, models, scripts, etc.) that allow the users to try things out for themselves as they are learning about the solutions. A framework that allows us to expand the Web site in the future to teach more cartographic concepts and present higher level information – that is, to dig deeper holes, not only more holes.
How does this relate to the other Esri Resource Centers?
Mapping Center was the first resource center developed, aside from Project Center. Then, in 2008, Esri launched a number of other Resource Centers designed to provide support for additional uses of the software, such as analysis and online publishing. With the development of the other Resource Centers, we can now point you to related mapping resources on these Web sites as well.

The easiest way to learn about Mapping Center is to take a tour of the Web site, so to get started, try visiting the Maps section and drill down to learn about some cartographic effects that you would find on maps made by professional map makers. Then visit the Blog or Ask a Cartographer to see what others are doing with Esri software. Explore and enjoy—this Web site is for you!

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