Cutting-edge cartography

During my Directions LIVE presentation, I wanted to highlight some of the new and interesting functionality in both ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online, specifically around the areas of cartography and map design.

New symbology options in ArcGIS Pro

I opened the session with a dive into my location history.

For the past two years, I’ve been tracking my location using the Moves app, counting steps, calories, and my travels across Australia. The result was a large amount of data; every journey and every step was recorded. But visualising this was a problem.


Thankfully, in ArcGIS Pro we have access to the new graphics engine that allows us to quickly apply advanced cartographic effects to data.

By going into the layer’s symbology properties and applying colour transparency to the layer, I was able to create a much cleaner representation of the data. The more data we have in any one location, the denser that colour becomes.


From chaos to clarity in a few clicks.

I then showcased another new feature in ArcGIS Pro 1.2 – heat-mapping.

Those of you who have used ArcGIS Online in the last year or so will be instantly familiar with this technique; by applying a kernel density tool to our point data, we can dynamically convert large quantities of point features from their raw form into a density plot. From this:


To this:


These two techniques may appear simplistic, but they’re useful tools to add to your cartographic toolbox if you find yourself working with complex or visually dense information.

And hey, if you wanted to make a quick buck on the side, why not use this new knowledge to start up a personalised t-shirt company?


Map layouts

Next, I took a look at map layouts in Pro. The ability to combine 2D and 3D views of your data on the same page is powerful, and takes a lot of additional work out of creating compelling map outputs.

In this example, I chose Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. The park is an attractive sight from above by itself, but I really wanted to showcase the elevation within the region too. An overview plan of the park, combined with a couple of profile shots of the Ruapehu and Ngaruhoe peaks allowed me to easily create an attractive tourist information poster.


Custom basemaps

Next up, I switched to ArcGIS Online to showcase a recent addition to basemaps – the ability to create custom ones!

In order to create a relevant basemap for my organisation, I wanted to show sea temperature, but also include a hillshade layer to add depth to the map. I selected a couple of layers from the Living Atlas gallery on ArcGIS Online, Sea Surface Temperature and TopoBathy hillshade, and for flavour included some ocean currents.


Note the time slider at the bottom of the image – the sea surface temperature layer is time aware! This means that I can select which date I want to show on my map, or even animate it, even as a basemap.

By combining multiple layers into a basemap group and then sharing it, you can quickly provide your users a new and more relevant base layer for use in web maps, apps, or even in ArcGIS Pro.

Terrain visualisation

To round off the presentation, I demonstrated a variety of upcoming hillshade and shaded relief tools.

The ‘Maps We Love’ site contains a wide variety of interesting cartographic maps and examples, and one of them really caught my eye.


The Gorgeous Gorge map illustrated how much of a difference a hillshade can make to elevation data, and bring life to otherwise ‘boring’ maps.

The tools to recreate the map have been made freely available by Esri, and are available here.

With them, it’s possible to change the standard, grey hillshade…


…into works of art, creating dramatic depictions of elevation within your map:


or unusual ones:


The presentation ended with a rapturous applause, many tears of joy, and a solitary white dove exited stage right. Or a polite ripple of claps, followed by silence, it depended on how you were listening.

Rich S

Directions LIVE is currently travelling around the country until the end of May. If you haven’t registered for your local event, visit the Esri Australia website now.

6 thoughts on “Cutting-edge cartography

  1. Joel

    Hi Rich

    Loved your presentation and have finally got around to trying this myself. How did you get tracks from Moves? I am only able to retrieve places (points)…


  2. Rich S Post author

    Hey mate, it’s been a while but from memory I just took the places (points) through:, specifically the points to line part.

    I did spend a bit of time calculating speeds, tidying up lines, and deleting anything non-Melbourne, though – there’s always a certain amount of smoke and mirrors with these sorts of demos.


    EDIT: Also, make sure you use the ‘storyline’ files if you want to pull through number of steps, calories, etc. might be useful for this, you can pass through the whole storyline.geojson file and download the output as SHP.


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