Skip to Main Content

Urban Design & Planning: GIS for Architecture and Design

Geographic Information Systems

What are the building blocks of a Geographic Information System?

Statistics - Data sets are visualized with layers and oriented geographically.
Optimization - The ability to select, filter and orient the GIS to a particular area of research. 

Numerical Algorithms - enable you to assign data to a geographic reference.

We can help you:

  • Locate, interpret, and visualize GIS maps and data.

  • Incorporate GIS into your project presentations.

  • Narrate your site. See also the Community Research guide.

Adapted from Boland, Maeve A. "Geographic Information Systems." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics, edited by Carl Mitcham, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, pp. 856-857. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 26 Sept. 2017

About Geographic Information and Technologies

Identify Geospatial Data Sources

Narrate with Geospatial Visualizations

  • Select Mapping platforms (including ArcGIS Storymaps, Felt, QQIS, etc, for analysis and presentation; layering open data, original data, text, images and media.

  • Social Explorer for demography and data upload anaylsis.

Explore Historical Maps Sources

Geospatial Training and Careers

Learn More about the Geospatial Science, Theory, and Practice

Create your own GIS with these Map Tools

What is Felt?

Web-based GIS mapping platform.  - free with limited options enables, 

  • Easy upload of geospatial file formats for quick layering
  • Collaborate with others in real-time


What is Green Maps OGM2?

OGM2 is Green Map System's second Open Green Map platform. Designed for community mapping, this platform is ready for all kinds of mapmakers - from students to professionals - who want to draw attention to sustainability in their own city or town.

OGM2 includes the original set of 170 Green Map Icons for charting nature, culture, social justice and sustainable living resources. An open source platform, OGM2 allows for new icon sets, including our 2020 Recovery Icons, the UN SDGs and more.  Mapmakers can add customized icon sets for specific localities, and custom base maps, too. 

What is GrassGIS?

The Geographic Resources Analysis Support System (, commonly referred to as GRASS GIS, is an Open Source Geographic Information System providing powerful raster, vector and geospatial processing capabilities. It can be used either as a stand-alone application or as backend for other software packages such as QGIS and R or in the cloud. It is distributed freely under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). GRASS GIS is a founding member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).

What is Leaflet?

  • Uses javascript. Code heavy with endless capability. 

  • Free. Open Source.

What is OpenStreetMap?

"OpenStreetMap is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world." 

Get Started with OpenStreetMap

  1. Register to become an editor
  2. Complete editor training
  3. Choose a location and start improving the world's geolocation. 

OpenStreetMaps US hosts an entire community with conferences, training, mapping games, and historical information

News from OpenStreetMaps US

Loading ...

What is ArcGIS StoryMaps?

Get Started with ArcGIS StoryMaps

  1. Visit ArcGIS Story Maps (
  2. Sign Up for an Individual Account using your Gmail.
  3. There are multiple ways to begin your story. Start with an Express Map to build a place-based presentation. Layer in text and images.

TIP: Compile your story content in a simple spreadsheet before building out the StoryMap.

Social Explorer

Get Started with Social Explorer;

  • Compose maps and data reports based on historical and modern census data at all geographic levels 

  • Upload your data and layer it with features and demographics.

  • Link an Individual Account to save, publish and collaborate maps.

  1. Click on Maps 
  2. Select Start Now.  You'll see a default map of the United States
  3. Enter a location into the search box.
  4. Pull down Show Data By and change it to your geography (county, place, census tract, etc.). Place refers to both cities and unincorporated areas.
  5. Select the Change Data button
  6. Browse by Category or Survey
    1. Browse by Category (tutorial): Use the slider bar to select a Census year and category.  Not all categories are available for each census year as some questions are added or dropped from survey to survey
    2. Browse by Survey (tutorial): Shows a list of all available data variables by Census year  
  7. Creating a Project to enhance your map with text and images.
  8. Invite Group Members to Collaborate by Share > Email Collaborators.

Map of Clinton Hill neighborhood including coastal flooding, open space, and housing data,

Video Tutorials:

Historical Maps

Typically large-scale maps, dating back to the 1500s, historical maps serve as primary research artifacts.
Fire Insurance Maps cover the United States, Canada, and Mexico from 1800s to the present and About the Sanborn Maps at the Library of Congress

Locating Spatial Data

Locating Spatial Data & Information


• Look in general GIS data repositories
• Search the internet – Include “gis”, or “data” in the search terms AND Search by location and/or topic
• Search for governmental (see below) statistical agencies or open data sites from local to global perspective.
• Contact GIS departments, universities, or researchers in your area of interest.
• Search for articles on your topic and look for the sources of the data.

Global Dataset Search Engines



County and City Data Portals

  • Locate County and Municipal Data on the Web, use search terms, "geospatial" "Open Data" "GIS" plus the municipality name (County, State, or Province) to locate these data repositories.
  • Use translation to navigate pages from local governments often written in different languages.
  • Know that topics including Environment, Business and Economy, Food and Housing, GIS, Infrastructure, Health, Boundaries, Culture and Education are often similar but not standardized. 

Example Collections:

Open Municipal Government Data

Open Government Data initiatives promote "transparency, accountability, and value creation by making government data available to all" ( Evaluate datasets found through open data portals as you would information sources. Máchová, Hub, Lnenicka recommend searchers consider the following criteria when selecting and searching government data:

- Are data sets organized in understandable categories?
- A complete list of datasets.
- Is there someone to contact to request a specific data set.
- Can you search according to category, publisher, format?
- Can you filter data sets in order to limit what you need to extract?
- Can you process data sets in a common structure such as CSV, JSON, or RDF?
- Do you need to register an account in order to access datasets?

Máchová, R., Hub, M., & Lnenicka, M. (2018). Usability evaluation of open data portals: Evaluating data discoverability, accessibility, and reusability from a stakeholders’ perspective. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 70(3), 252-268.

Example Thematic GIS & Maps

Example Maps Collections with GIS visual analysis tools

United States


Geospatial Organizations and Standards

Geospatial Community

Journals on GIS and Geospatial Technology

See Also, related guides...

Books About Mapping and GIS

© 2024 New York Institute of Technology