Visual Design Presentation

Example Slides from Communication Presentation
Sample slides from one of three presentations created for the 2014 Esri User Conference, highlighting best practices for map design and visual communication generally.
Client:   Esri

In today's visually saturated world of information, communicating with maps requires great skill. But GIS maps and interactive mapping applications are often not effective at engaging users and holding their attention. GreenInfo was asked by Esri, the publishers of ArcGIS software, to present workshops at Esri's large annual users conference to better educate geospatial technologists on how to design better maps.

Far too often, GIS-created maps and web mapping applications simply don't measure up as compelling visual products.  Heavy focus on data, analysis and the complexities of geospatial information can push good visual design too far down the list of priorities.  But given the effort that goes into these products, ensuring that their audiences can engage with them is crucial - one can have amazing information, but if it isn't engaging for a viewer, its usefulness is greatly reduced.   This way of thinking has animated GreenInfo's staff since its founding, and led us to develop maps that are widely admired for their visual style.

GreenInfo has long been supported by Esri, the leading GIS publisher, and its conservation program which donates ArcGIS software used heavily by GreenInfo.  Ever year, Esri holds a major User Conference with over 15,000 GIS users,  featuring hundreds of workshops and other learning sessions. Based on discussions between GreenInfo and Esri at the 2013 conference about the quality of maps being exhibited by users, Esri underwrote the development of a three part presentation series for 2014, co-created by GreenInfo and Esri staff:
  • An overview session on design and communication
  • A session focused on maps for print and fixed images
  • A session focused on web map design
The content for these sessions was worked out in sessions with Esri staff and drew on years of GreenInfo presenting on these topics, as well as doing hundreds of mapping projects annually.  GreenInfo took the lead on defining approaches to visual perception and process and guidelines for print maps, while the Esri staff focused more on web map design, featuring Esri's Story Maps technology.

The PowerPoint presentations that resulted were custom designed for 75 minute sessions and contained over 70 slides each, and were co-presented by GreenInfo's Larry Orman and Esri's Allen Carroll.  They featured before and after maps, demonstrations of how to improve a less-effective map, steps in good visual design, map design pitfalls and more - GreenInfo staffers Maegan Leslie Torres, Stephanie Ding and Laura Daly contributed the before and after maps. Our outside design partner, Ison Design, helped with presentation graphics in the PowerPoint.

Each presentation wrapped up with overall guidelines - for the specific session on map design, we offered these key takeaways:
  • Maps are stories that unfold in layers of perception
  • See through audience eyes, from the beginning
  • Direct the eye through your map story
  • Remove and simplify 
  • Always grow your design skills
At the 2015 User Conference, the presentations were focused on just print/static images, and web, and were again well received.

GreenInfo has long maintained that GIS can be used to produce outstanding maps, as long users follow these principles. In particular, it is vital that the end-user is kept closely in mind and that design occur near the beginning of a mapping project, not as an afterthought. The enthusiastic reception at the User Conferences for this information shows that it resonates strongly among the GIS community - and hopefully results in ever-better maps for all of us to see and use!


Results: The presentations were attended by packed rooms of 300+ people at the 2014 and 2015 Esri User Conferences, exceeding expectations.

Services:  Communications, Presentations, Strategy 

Tags:   Esri ArcGIS, design  

Project Years: 2014, 2015

GreenInfo Network creates, analyzes, visualizes and communicates information in the public interest. We specialize in mapping and related technology for nonprofits and public agencies, focusing on using it for conservation, social equity, public health, environment and foundation grant making.
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