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Prof.  Elizabeth  Macdonald

Computer Graphics for Planners
ArcMap AutoCAD Illustrator Photoshop SketchUp Links










ArcMap Overview

"A geographic information system (GIS) is a system for management, analysis, and display of geographic knowledge, which is represented using a series of information sets. The information sets include:

  • Maps and Globes - Interactive views of geographic data with which to answer questions, present results, and use as a dashboard for real work. Maps and globes provide the advanced GIS applications for interacting with geographic data.
  • Geographic Data Sets - File bases and databases of geographic information—features, networks, topologies, terrains, surveys, and attributes.
  • Processing and Work Flow Models - Collections of geoprocessing procedures for automating and repeating numerous tasks and for analysis.
  • Data Models - GIS data sets are more than database management system (DBMS) tables. They incorporate advanced behavior and integrity like other information systems. The schema, behavior, and integrity rules of geographic data sets play a critical role in GIS.
  • Metadata - Documents describing the other elements. A document catalog enables users to organize, discover, and gain access to shared geographic knowledge."


The key operating concept of GIS software is spatial mapping with the ability to display informational data through the map interface. The tutorial below will focus on a simple and common application for planners - producing high-resolution aerial images at a given scale. Aerial images are useful for the creation of map graphics and the presentation of planning concepts.


The term "GIS" (like "CAD") refers to a general category of software, and various software developers have products available. ArcGIS 9 software is available in the DCRP and LAEP labs. This is the most current release from ESRI, one developer of GIS software. The tutorial below was written for ArcMap 8.3, an earlier release of ESRI software. Do not be confused by the difference in name - ArcGIS is the most recent software release by ESRI, and utilizes a user-interface nearly identical to ArcMap.


Students wishing to gain a better understanding of GIS software may be interested in the following courses offered in the College of Environmental Design. The websites for these classes contain step-by-step instructions for performing various GIS tasks:

  • CP 204C - Introduction to GIS and City Planning
  • CP 255 - Urban Planning Applications of Geographic Information Systems
  • LA 188X - Geographic Information Systems

More information on course offerings in other departments is available from the on the GISC website. The following departments offer GIS-based courses at the undergraduate and graduate level: Demography; Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM); Geography; Geology; Information Management and Systems; Anthropology; Business Administration; Energy and Resources; Public Health; and Civil Engineering.


The following tutorials are available in .pdf form:

Tips and Tricks

The following sites offer free downloads of aerial image files (and other GIS data), as well as offering FAQs that further explain the use of GIS software:

Where do I go next?

After creating a scaled aerial photograph of your site, you can begin learning how to edit the image in Photoshop, draw a footprint map in AutoCAD, or create a presentation layout in Illustrator.