The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—
OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!
—is unexpectedly more on point than not.
In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.
Randall Munroe’s map projection humour is increasingly on point, as last Friday’s xkcd demonstrates. (The mouseover text is even better: “There are two rules on this ship: Never gaze back into the projection abyss, and never touch the red button labeled DYMAXION.”)
Bloomberg CityLab is continuing its COVID-19 mapping project: they’ve issued another call for reader-submitted maps. “[T]he new year is a chance to take stock of where we stand now. Once again, Bloomberg CityLab invites you to make a map that reflects on how your world has shifted or been reframed during the pandemic.” Due date is 17 January.
Max Schörm has resurrected the art of caricature maps (maps where countries are made to look like people, animal or other objects; they were a regular feature of propaganda maps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries). For the past year and a half Max has been posting new maps three times a week to his Instagram account: the maps are of countries, but also continents, provinces, states, districts and cities; some of them are of countries’ historical boundaries (e.g. interwarRomania or Habsburg Hungary—or, going even further back, Pangaea) some of them (e.g. this pinwheel map of Myanmar) are even animated. There’s a lot of whimsy and pop-culture references that don’t always match up with the borders they’re filling out; these aren’t the “serio-comic” satirical maps of the pre-World War I era. Which is to say: they’re entertaining.
Maps where countries are coloured in with flag patterns: I’ve seen a lot of them around, especially on Reddit, but I haven’t necessarily liked them; xkcd’s comic from last Wednesday goes one step further in that it offers a way to hack them.
Legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues has announced on his blog and on Twitter that he will be “stepping away from creating ski resort trail maps” after more than three decades. He plans to work on other projects, including the American Landscape Project, and will, for the first time, be selling original paintings and sketches of his ski resort trail maps later this month.
Using carefully curated paper maps of the Caribbean and UK that have been shredded into strips, the artist and several black women co-creators used African-Caribbean hair styling techniques to plait the shredded maps. Culturally, such female spaces of hair styling are filled with discussions around self- and community-care, and this black woman-centred cultural practice juxtaposed the wood-lined walls, globes and portraits of white explorers that typify the building with the music and laughter of black women talking and working together. As a response to the RGS’s stated desire to reflect on their history and their building, this was a filling of the space with black women’s language, perspectives and practices, a reimagining of what the space can and should mean.
The Diefenbunker is a Cold War-era fallout shelter on the outskirts of Ottawa that has since been converted into a museum. Its large floor maps, never used or displayed, are serving as grist for an Indigenous artist in residence, CBC Ottawa reports:
As the new artist in residence at Ottawa’s Diefenbunker Museum, Mairi Brascoupé is blending Cold War-era maps and beadwork to explore the idea of “place” during times of change.
Brascoupé, a member of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, wants to weave her own story by exploring the differences between cultures of Indigenous people and settlers.
She plans to use waterways and traplines in contrast with fallout zones, evacuation plans, and other details of the museum’s maps.
Since 2013, Peter Bolt—whose company is called Landfall—has been making bespoke 3D relief models based on from nautical charts, Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs (see his portfolio for examples). The models are layered along contour lines—a process that can be seen in several of his videos. Everything is a custom job, made by hand; prices begin around £250 for an A4-sized model and go up from there.
In an interview with Atlas Obscura’s Max Ufberg, legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues (no stranger to us here at The Map Room: previously) discusses some of the challenges involved in creating his paintings. For example:
What’s the most challenging aspect of the work? Showing all the trails in the most understandable and navigational way. It may not always be in one view, but I strive for the single view because it leaves no doubt about any trail connections or direction. Many mountains have slopes on more than one face, which requires manipulating the features to show the back side with the front on a flat sheet of paper. This has to be done with care since skiers will be referring to the image to choose their way down; all elements have to be relative to what they are experiencing on the mountain.