Mapdiva to Make New Mapping Software for the Mac

I’m pleased to announce the launch of Mapdiva, LLC, a partnership among Graham Cox and Jill Saligoe-Simmel, to develop Ortelius™ – powerful map illustration software for Mac OS X. Ortelius is characterized by its ease of use and beautiful graphics capabilities for which Macs are known. Our new company anticipates the release Ortelius in the first quarter of 2009.

 

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Role of Sketching in Map Design Layouts

Hand-drawn sketching plays an important role in the digital arts. The larger a project is, and the more concepts a client will need to see, the more sketching will prove its worth in your design process. Consider using rough sketches for composition or layout options in your next project. Or push yourself to do a handful of thumbnail sketches before firing up your cartography software of choice. Create ten well thought out map design options (not seven to make three look good).  Select three and refine each.  Select one for final design.

In Role of Sketching in the Design Process, Sean Hodge discusses sketching for rapid concept development in traditional design.  This same process should be considered in cartography.

Sketch map figure from Slocum 2005

Cartographer as Designer – It’s a Process

Those who design maps for use by others engage in a specialized form of communication.  They create images to represent physical and phenomena in three-dimensional space, but they create them on two-dimensional surfaces. To do this effectively, a cartographer must understand not only the phenomena on which the maps are based, but also how to work with them to communicate information to others.  No amount of skill with computer software can rescue a map that displays a lack of understanding of the cartographic design process.

Example Map by XNR Productions

Cartography is a PROCESS, thus should follow a well thought out sequence of steps from conception to finished product. “So, what exactly are your intentions?” Know how the map is intended to be used at the beginning of your project. What is the presentation media? e.g., print, projected, web. What is the size? Is it interactive? How often does it need updating? Show examples of how you would create the same map differently depending on the presentation format.

PROCESS – A process is a naturally occurring or designed sequence of changes of properties or attributes of an object or system. More precisely, and from the most general systemic perspective, every process is representable as a particular trajectory (or part thereof) in a system’s phase space. (adapted from Wikipedia)

A map must be designed foremost with consideration to the purpose, the audience and its needs. In order to convey the message of the map, the creator must design it in a manner which will aid the reader in the overall understanding of its purpose.

What is your first step when someone asks, “Can you make me a map of…?”  Here are some questions you should ask (of your client and yourself) during the cartographic design process. It is recommended you make your own process list and format it as a form that you can re-use with each new project:

Purpose

  • Why are you making your map?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Primary audience:
  • Secondary audience:
  • Expert or non-expert?
  • Busy or motivated?
  • Able or disabled?
  • Other comments:
  • What should the map assert?
  • What do you want to communicate?

Data

  • What data are needed?
  • Existing or new?
  • Sources?
  • Is field data collection required?
  • Is analysis required?
  • Do you need to convert/geocode data?
  • Are there copyright issues?
  • Age of data?
  • Is there a budget for the data?

Tools

  • What tools will you use?
  • Other comments:

Design

  • What is the geographic framework?
  • Layout?
  • Will it be coordinated with other text? Or stand-alone?
  • Intellectual & visual hierarchies?
  • Map generalization and classification to be used?
  • Map symbolization?
  • Are there existing standards that must be followed?
  • New symbols to be created?
  • Type / font(s) to be used?
  • Use of color or black & white?
  • Existing color scheme?
  • Other comments:

Media

  • What is the final medium? (paper, poster, projected, Internet, interactive, computer monitor, other)
  • Resolution / scale?
  • Viewing distance?
  • Requirements for final file formats?

Evaluation and Acceptance

  • Who will approve the finished map?
  • What are the time constraints?
  • What is the budget?
  • Other comments:

Thanks to john krygier | denis wood, authors of making maps:a visual guide to map design for gis for their inspiring insight in the chapter “Why are you Making your Map?”

Lakeshore Nature Preserve (WI)

Beautiful example of interactivity – clean map interface and intuitive design.

This map was created at the UW-Madison Cartography Lab by Rob Roth, Andy Woodruff, Joel Przybylowski under the supervision of Professor Bill Cronon and Professor Mark Harrower. Melanie McCalmont assisted with info window text and image production. Production: May-November 2006

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Flex Projector for Interactive Creation of Map Projections

Flex Projector is an interesting new program for anyone who has ever been interested in map projections. The program provides a great hands-on interface for understanding more about how map projections work as well as to create your very own. Alpha 0.32 was released 1 April 2008 for Linux, Mac and Windows by Bernhard Jenny, Oregon State University, and Tom Patterson, US National Park Service.

According to their website (http://www.flexprojector.com) Flex Projector is a freeware, cross-platform application for creating custom world map projections. The intuitive interface allows users to easily modify dozens of popular world map projections—the possibilities range from slight adjustments to making completely new projections. Flex Projector is intended as a tool for practicing mapmakers and students of cartography. It took a couple tries to get the shape files to show up in the map window, but once they did I was off and running. Very ingenious application. I think this will become standard material for every introduction to cartography class out there. Its well worth a look for all mapping professionals.

Festival of Maps at the Chicago Field Museum

I can’t wait for my next road trip to Chicago (which will definitely be soon). Festival of Maps Chicago opens this weekend and runs all the way through January 2009. Over 30 cultural and scientific institutions are involved in dozens of exhibits, lectures, and events that “display humanity’s greatest discoveries and the maps that record our boldest explorations.” I’m especially looking forward to a visit to the Field Museum’s exhibit “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” which runs from November 2, 2007 — January 27, 2008.

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Simplify your Shapefiles

As mapping professionals, we often want more detail – the more accurate the better. But occasionally we need to simplify our maps (specifically our shapefiles) for presentation purposes or to speed up web map applications. Now you can very easily simplify your shapefiles online using MapShaper. I’ve used it and it was a breeze.

Here is some info directly from their blog: “MapShaper is a free online editor for Polygon and Polyline Shapefiles. It has a Flash interface that runs in an ordinary web browser. Mapshaper supports three line simplification algorithms: Douglas-Peucker, Visvalingam-Whyatt, and a custom algorithm designed to smooth convoluted coastlines and spiky features.  The MapShaper project was conceived in 2005 by Matthew Bloch and Mark Harrower at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Geography Department. A paper [pdf] from the 2006 AutoCarto conference describes how MapShaper works “under the hood.”” Since it is a web application, you upload your shapefile, tell it what simplification program to run, and let it go.

Thanks Matthew and Mark for a very nice app.

 

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