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5 tips to ace the 2020 Map Calendar Contest

The 2020 Map Calendar Contest is now open. The first question that likely comes to your mind is “How do I create a winning map?” Well, don’t worry as we’ve got you covered. Read these five tips to get started.

1. Focus on Canada

Since the goal of this contest is to showcase beautiful maps by Esri users in Canada, make sure to submit Canada-specific maps for the competition. Your map could focus on a particular province or region or cover the entire country.

2. Think about Colour

ArcGIS contains many basemap-specific colour ramps to help showcase your data, many of which are colour-blind friendly. When switching the basemap, smart mapping automatically suggests a colour ramp suitable for the basemap you select. Designed to draw focus to your data, the light and dark grey canvas basemaps are a good place to start. To enhance your story, choose a colour ramp that matches the context of your data. For example, the following map shows the distribution of bike lanes (measured in kilometres) for each neighbourhood in Montréal in green colour to highlight biking as an environment-friendly mode of transport. The darker the green, the greater the kilometres of bike lanes. In this case, we are using colour to tell the story more effectively.

3. Make it Legible

Legibility is “the ability to be seen and understood”. Many people work to make their map contents and page elements easily seen, but it is also important that they be understood. To tell the story of your data effectively, make your map legible. Select symbols that are familiar and choose appropriate sizes so that the results are effortlessly seen and easily understood. Remember, geometric symbols are easier to read at smaller sizes, while more complex symbols require larger amounts of space to be legible. Below is an image where size and symbols were utilized to signify the quantity of craft breweries around the world.

To view more on how this map was created, visit Maps We Love

4. Choose Vector over Raster

Raster images are made of pixels, so if you zoom into a raster image, you may see a lot of tiny squares. Vector images, on the other hand, are mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If you zoom into a vector map, it will always look the same because vector graphics can be scaled and printed at any size without losing quality. Furthermore, vector maps give higher geographic accuracy because the data isn’t dependent on grid size.

5. Determine the Layout

Submit your maps as 300 dpi vector-based PDF files with a horizontal legend. Landscape-oriented maps are preferred. Minimum size is 14"x14".

The deadline for submitting entries to the 2020 Calendar Map Contest is August 16. Submit your maps via our contest page.  Also, if you’re looking to submit apps, note the App of the Month Contest for this year will open in the fall.

Below are a few more resources for making great maps:

Cartographic Creations in ArcGIS Pro

6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Maps

Maps We Love: How to make great maps that engage and inspire

Make Maps People Want to Look At

Hand Crafted Artisanal Legends

Tough Cartography

33 Map Elements to Include in Cartographic Design: A ‘How to’ Guide to Map Making

Cartography MOOC (sign up for waitlist)

Good luck and we look forward to seeing your submissions!

About the Author

Dimpee Shah is a Marketing Specialist for Esri Canada. The power of geography and its ability to build ‘real connections’ fascinate her. Dimpee has a bachelor’s degree in mass media with majors in advertising and public relations. She has over 10 years of international experience in developing and executing communications campaigns to meet business objectives. Her love for performing arts has inspired her to always put her best foot forward.

Profile Photo of Dimpee Shah