GEOG 583
Geospatial System Analysis and Design



In this course, we will focus attention on the problem of GIS system analysis and design. Our goal will be to survey existing design methods as well as the range of possible design choices so that you can make smart decisions when developing GIS systems of your own. By the end of the term, you will have applied what you've learned in the form of a term project focused on the design of a new GIS.

In the past, GIS designs were monolithic and followed very prescribed design patterns (data plugs in here, a map viewer plugs in here, etc...). Today, the users of GIS tools and their derivatives are very diverse and can include experts and novices alike. Also, there is a very wide range now of "types of GIS" - from the desktop tools that many of us were weaned on, to lightweight web applications that are dynamic and interactive.

Standard ArcGIS Desktop
Figure 1.01: Standard ArcGIS Desktop
Image credit: ArcGIS
A Scene from GeoCommons
Figure 1.02: A Scene from GeoCommons
Image credit: GeoCommons

At the top, the standard ArcGIS Desktop. At bottom, a scene from GeoCommons Maker. These are very different tools for very different end-user audiences. Having the right know-how to design a GIS will help ensure that you can meet a range of user needs.

In this lesson, you will learn about the fundamentals of system design, how a design process can be conceptualized, and some of the pitfalls associated with missing the mark when it comes to GIS system design. Along the way, you will also learn about a new technology trend and begin thinking about your term project.


At the successful completion of Lesson 1, students should be able to:

  • develop a basic understanding of the need for careful Geospatial System Analysis & Design;
  • review a recent technology trend and discuss how it relates to GIS Design;
  • become familiar with the final project assignment for this class;
  • read about Design Principles and relate those ideas to GIS in a discussion with your classmates.


Lesson 1 is one week in length. Please refer to Canvas for specific assignment instructions and due dates.


If you have questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them in the General Questions Discussion Forum in Canvas. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses and comments if you are able to help out a classmate.