Project 2: Joe Davis


Welcome to Apex, originating from a railroad station chartered in 1854; Apex is aptly named for being the highest point on a 30 mile stretch of the Chatham Railroad. Since it’s incorporation in 1873, Apex has grown into one of the top places to live in the United States. Money Magazine ranked it #14 in 2007, #9 in 2013, and #1 in 2015. Despite these claims to fame, Historic Downtown Apex has been able to retain much of its character since 1912, after two fires caused the town to turn to fireproof brick designs. The town is listed, by the National Register of Historic Places, as a quintessential example of a “turn-of-the-century railroad town” (Apex).

tl;dr My site is the historical downtown region of a town called Apex, with its origins in the railroad industry. 

BW Photo of a railroad with house in background
Apex’s origins are in the railroad ( Which is still in use)





Much of the charm of Historic Downtown stems from the site’s architecture. Many of the brick businesses were built around 1912, however, I suspect some of the wood houses to be older. My knowledge of architecture is limited, but I have tried to catalog some of the more unique buildings at the site. The history of these buildings helps sell Apex as a quaint town, despite the massive developments that are popping up in the surrounding area. There are two main occupants at the site, residents and businesses. I would argue that historic architecture, businesses, and residences are three separate forces.

tl;dr Historic downtown has some cool old buildings.

Historical residence on a field of grass with clear skies in the backdrop
Historical Downtown is filled with thought provoking architecture
Fire station on the right and business on the left. Train in the backdrop.
Influences of Apex’s railroad origins are present among the architecture



Many of the buildings along Salem Street, the road that runs through downtown Apex, are businesses. These businesses include coffee shops, clothing stores, and art studios. Not all businesses are in historic buildings, it is therefore necessary to be able to differentiate between which buildings are both a business and a historic site, and businesses that have no historical relevance in the context of Apex.

tl;dr There are many businesses in downtown, while the majority are inside of the historic buildings, there are exceptions.

White brick building with a shop nested inside. Red canopy hanging off building
Art Studio in Apex’s Historical Downtown region
Historical building with shops. Two stories with several windows along top.
Businesses nested between train tracks and Salem Street
Pizza hut in a small strip of businesses. Concrete building with wood roofing.
Not all businesses are located in historically relevant buildings.



While many of the buildings at the heart of historic downtown are businesses, there are residences adjacent to Salem Street. As you get closer to a cluster of historic buildings, you start to see less residences and more businesses housed in historic buildings. This dichotomy is easier to understand in the maps below. Many of the residences appear to be currently in use. There was only one house that was obviously abandoned, featured as the first picture of this post. Additionally, I only noticed a single modern house in the vicinity of my site. Unfortunately, my lack of architectural knowledge prevented me from further distinguishing between the different eras, style, and design.

tl;dr Businesses are clustered at the center of historic downtown, with residences on either side.

Historic Residence One
Historic Residence Two
Historic Residence Three
Historic Residence Four



Government is quite prevalent in downtown Apex; the chamber of commerce, police station, and volunteer fire station all show signs of an organized community. There are additionally street signs, street lights, cross walks, utilities, a parks and recreation department indicating the presence of government. The preservation of the town and the historic buildings also further implies an outside influence protecting the site.

tl;dr Government buildings and signage are prevalent at the site.

Building in the background, trees on the sides. NC Flag on flag pole. Court yard in front.
Apex Chamber of Commerce
Red brick building with the words Apex Volunteer Fire Dept
Apex Volunteer Fire Deptartment
White building (right) originally the town hall, transformed into a cultural center



One of the first forces I noticed, while walking around my site, was transportation; numerous parking lots, parked cars, moving cars, speed cameras, sidewalks, railroad cars, railroad buildings, and train tracks all indicating that transportation was important to this site. The railroad has its roots in the founding of the town as mentioned above, and its current use can still be encountered on a daily basis. The vehicle traffic is impacted by Salem, the road that runs through downtown, being used to cut across Apex. Thus, the traffic is often a mix of those looking to visit the historic site and locals trying to get to their next destination across town.

The sounds of traffic

tl;dr Downtown Apex, like every town, is impacted by cars and parking; a railroad runs parallel to the site.

In the background is trees and a train. Multiple vehicles parked in the foreground
Train Tracks and Vehicles Parked


Red train caboose with sign in front. Grass in foreground blue sky in back.
Train Caboose reflecting Apex’s Heritage


My major challenge with this project was in designing a perspective map that could show information in both a clear and aesthetically pleasing manner. I originally designed this with a detailed background base map. However, it became clear that this made it difficult to differentiate between the base map and my icons. Reducing the opacity of the base layer made the icons clearer, but eliminated the 3D appearance. Thus, I decided to make one final major edit. I also updated my mappings of residences and business, and made a few corrections.

I included my mapping of the sun, though this will soon be outdated, and I updated most of the graphics in the mapping to appear 3D. This update eliminated the need for the background map. It also allowed me to greatly reduce my use of icons, as the 3D buildings themselves now map their purpose. I’m still unsure on the aesthetics, but I am happier with the clarity of the map. I also made a fake logo, with a black and white vector version of my map in the center; it points to Apex, a play on both the word and the slogan “the peak of good living.”

tl;dr I made a final major update to my map, it features 3D buildings and a mapping of the sun.



Perspective Map with sun arcing over. Legend on right. Logo in top right
Final map




Five Forces – Revision 4
Base Map – Revision 3
Transportation – Revision Three
Historic – Revision Three
Residences – Revision Three
Business – Revision Three
Government – Revision Three



Map of Small Town from an angle
All Forces – Revision Two



All Forces – Revision One


Information on the history of the Apex was pulled from Apex’s website. Proportions and dimensions of maps pulled from google maps. Earlier revisions, excluding the final, used stitched images of google maps, satellite view/perspective to provide additional context and depth to the project.


Apex North Carolina, Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.

Apex, NC  Google Maps, 20 November 2018.

17 Replies to “Project 2: Joe Davis”

  1. Hi Joe!

    In reviewing your map, I’m inspired by the amount of care and detail you’ve approached this project with. Such attention makes it fairly easy to gain insight from your location, which I’m completely unfamiliar with.

    From your maps, I can gather that this site is fairly central to the larger community. The convergence of government, business, and transportation at this location seems to point me towards that insight. Such a concentration of forces that are central to a community also makes me think this site is central historically. I know you pointed out the historic nature of the buildings, but I have a feeling this site may be the oldest, or original hub of the area. Your juxtaposition of modern and historic architecture also hints that the area is changing and being modernized. I saw this through your pictures of older buildings with modern businesses housed inside. This gives me the feeling that the area is going through growth and change, while being molded as the central hub for generations to come. That sort of renaissance doesn’t usually happen out on the “fingers” of a community, but rather from the heart outward.

    I loved learning about the community you chose through your keen observation and research. Thank you!

  2. Joe, your site is awesome and I love how your map ended up. Visually, I feel like the aesthetic really fits your subject. Some of the other maps use very flat, graphic vector lines, but the textures in your map combined with the greens and browns help convey the historical architecture. I also like how the perspective and the length labels, really demonstrate how small the little town is.

    1. Hey Kathy, I’m really glad you liked version 3, i thought it had a lot of great qualities as well. 🙂 Unfortunately, i’ve Changed quite a bit during/since your post, in order to make my forces pop a bit more. I also wanted to see were the 3D perspective would take me in a 2d vector software like illustrator. I hope I’ve retained some of the historic feeling that you mentioned. Thanks again for the feedback. Joe

  3. Hi Joe,

    I love the informational and historical context used for your area in Apex. It seems as though there is a lot to explore and discover. One thought — for your business force, I would think about another color for the icon because it is very similar to the color of nature.

    The base map perspective is really interesting; I like that it is different from all of the other maps I’ve seen. It covers a good amount of space and is easy to understand. Aesthetically speaking, the overall color scheme is pretty dark. I would suggest picking a base color that is lighter neutral so your icons on the force maps stand out more! Great job so far!

    1. Hey Alexa,

      Thanks for the feedback! I think you are right about business, there is probably a color that would have a better contrast with the map as well as differentiating itself from nature. The colors do appear pretty dark in these low res versions, the higher resolution version has much better contrast. However, I think you are on to something, I may need to tweak the color scheme to prevent information from being lost.

  4. Joe, your map is so interesting! I like how the shape and view of your base map are unique and different from many other maps. Your base map is easy to understand and helps the other forces stand out. Love the dark background to indicate each force. Could you describe how you got the idea and what was a reference for your base map? I clearly understand where the forces are distributed on each map. Most of us, including myself, show the force using a rectangular shape or line, but I like how you chose each icon as a way of expressing each force. 🙂

    1. Thanks Young Sun! I really appreciate the feedback. Like most, I used google maps to get the proportions. There is a perspective view that you can go into, so that underlies the base map and gives the little extra pop of details. I really wanted my map to appear 3D and to show that it is part of a larger world (that’s where the grid came in, to help illustrate that there is more out there not being referenced. The dark background text helped frame the project and make things pop out more.

  5. Hi Joe,

    I really like what you did with the map to show perspective. Very cool way to show depth much like a driver’s route view in Google maps? Was this stylistic decision based on the “transportation” roots of this town? If so, this was very effective!



    1. Hey Alex,
      Thanks for the post. I did the perspective for a couple of reasons. Like you said it worked great with demonstrating the transportation side of things. However, I also did it because I thought it would make it a interesting way to show overlapping forces. I don’t think my five forces Image was up at the time you posted your comment, but Historic and Residences overlap, and the perspective really helps bring that interaction together. Also, I have a walkthrough video, that I thought really had added value with the perspective, if you haven’t checked that out, it’s pretty cool.

  6. Hi Joseph!

    The Historic Downtown Apex is so cute! It reminds me a lot of where I went to school, Old Town Orange, they have some similar characteristics – like the surprising amount of traffic and businesses housed in residential looking buildings.

    I also really like your base map, the interesting perspective used makes it feel like you could easily drive down this street and see all the forces happening around you. The placement of your arrows is also interesting, to see the density of your forces throughout the space and where each force is concentrated.

    I am a little confused by the arrows on your transportation map, I would think that mostly the transportation would highlight the streets – could you explain that a little more? Also, I think I understand a little better now what you meant about the ambiguity that you mentioned when you commented on my post! I think we both chose a color to show where the force was found, but not too much more information – like you said, not showing the whole story and the intricacies within the forces!

    1. Hi Liliana,
      Excactly, there is a lot of ambiguity in the transportation area because the triangles overlap with everything. I decided to switch it up and now transportation is broken into three groups (Railroad, cars, and parking) Hopefully, that will make things more clear. Haven’t posted it yet, but will probably tomorrow.

  7. Well, very impressive mapping! I like that you put it in perspective, and it’s very detailed! I think you’ve chosen great forces and identified plenty of those forces on the force maps. The one downfall for me is when it all comes together in one map it’s quite chaotic and confusing. Is there another way you can identify each of the forces on the map rather than doing all of them in triangles? I think breaking it up a bit visually would help its readability a lot. Really great job though!

    1. Lisa, your right, the triangles for everything is just a bit much. It really makes it hard to read the map. I’ve been working on some new layers to represent the different types of forces, hopefully that will help solve the problem.

  8. Hi Joe!
    I love the perspective nature of your map! It makes me really feel as though I’m looking down the street in the town. I do feel that when looking at the individual maps, the background business of the base map takes away from the carats you use to mark certain forces. I think if you could find a way to tone down the base map, it would make your forces really stand out!

    1. Hey Christine,

      I’m glad you like the perspective view! I think you are absolutely right. There is a lot going on, and a more muted base map would help bring attention to the forces.

  9. HI Kathlyn,

    The road is actually a highway that turns into a regular street when it reaches historic Apex. I think this is why it is so busy, because if you stay on that highway, you end up going through downtown. There are sidewalks on either side of the road that make it pedestrian friendly, I have some updated photos that will do a much better job of showing off the site and forces. The businesses are definitely a force that interacts with people. Most of the buildings along historic downtown are actually businesses.

    Thanks for the great questions! They gave me some ideas of what I’ve been missing in my original post, and how I might rework my descriptions and imagery.

  10. Hey Joe,

    Apex looks like such a quaint small town! I used to live in a similar small town in Iowa called Grinnell where I went to undergrad, and this makes me miss that small town feel.

    I really like several of the forces that you chose, especially “historic architecture” because that’s exactly what would make up a historic downtown! You said the first thing you noticed was the “transportation” force and I’m curious if this downtown area is on a highway kind of street for you to notice this right away. Would you say the area is walkable/pedestrian friendly? Are there any forces that involve the people that live or interact in this area (other than houses, just as a food for thought)?

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