The Power of Mapping Posted on December 18, 2015 by wpengine Share this post I’ve always been obsessed with maps. Something about being able to see the whole picture, looking down from an imagined space above, knowing where everything lays… As a kid, I’d look at maps and pretend – I’m hiking on this mountain, in these woods. I’m visiting this town, crossing that ocean. Or I’d make up lands of my own, the backdrop to some grand adventure. Later, as an architecture student, I started making maps to analyze real spaces. I’d plot surrounding buildings, or map out elements of a neighborhood like walls, paths, lights, or vegetation. But these maps, while useful, took a painstaking amount of time to create and never spanned beyond a neighborhood scale. It wasn’t until I had the pleasure of taking an introductory GIS course that I learned the real power of geography. Maps like this one help organizations understand where they should be focusing their energy. Click for a larger image. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. These systems have revolutionized the way we capture, store, analyze and visualize all types of spatial or geographical data. In fact, today most large organizations and many small ones depend on GIS to make decisions, manage assets, store information and communicate with one another. With ArcGIS—the most common Geographic Information System—users can rapidly plot massive sets of data, anything from entire storm water systems, to plant species, to detailed population statistics. Much of this data has already been compiled and is available for public use – such as all U.S. census data. This map created by GTECHer James Snow shows variety of vacant land uses throughout the Northside. Click for a larger image. That said, these systems take time to learn, and can be confusing. That’s why it was great to take this introductory class, where I was able to walk through the program step by step with help along the way from instructors who know the program and its quirks intimately (for instance, one misplaced comma in a spreadsheet, and your amazing map may not show up at all). We started with an introduction to the terminology and organization of ArcGIS, and moved rapidly through lessons on data management practices, how to visualize your information, spatial analysis with GIS, and more complicated “geoprocessing” tools. After a great deal of learning through built-in tutorials, the class culminated in a individual project, putting our skills to the test while we explored the wide variety of ways to solve GIS problems. Want to.. Find a suitable location for your new store? Analyze local hydrology? Keep track of where your supporters live? Identify all of the native and invasive plants in your park? Explore relationships between the environment and population health? Make an awesome map marketing assets in your community? Develop a master plan? Determine best routes for shipping? ……… You can accomplish this and more with Geographic Information Systems – Sign up for the Mapping 101 class at GTECH and broaden your horizons today!