The Return of ‘Map Men’

After a hiatus of more than two and a half years, Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones are back to producing new episodes of Map Men. Back in 2016 I called the series “two silly people being very smart about often-silly cartographical situations” (though I may have gotten that backward). Anyway, they’re back, with episodes on the geological origins of the English-Scottish border and trap streets.

Monochrome Mapping Competition Announced

Daniel Huffman has announced a Monochrome Mapping Competition.

I love working in monochrome (and gave a talk about it at NACIS 2018). I think color is overused, and the challenges of a limited palette can be liberating. I want to draw more attention to the great work that mapmakers are doing in this medium, and encourage more people to experience the joy of composing with only one ink.

Daniel emphasizes that “monochrome” doesn’t mean black and white: “They can be made from tints of any ‘ink.’ So if you’ve got a green & white map, it’s welcome here.” Submission details at the link. Deadline 25 June 2019. Submissions to be reviewed by a surprisingly high-powered panel of judges. No prize; it’s for the honour and glory, says Daniel.

Equal Earth Physical Map

On Sunday Tom Patterson announced that the Equal Earth Physical Map is now available for download in JPEG, Illustrator and GeoTIF formats. Unlike its political counterpart, no territorial boundaries appear on this map (though cities do). Not having borders doesn’t mean that Tom and his collaborators won’t get into trouble with the names of natural features, though: I note they use Sea of Japan rather than East Sea, for example (see above). But, importantly, they’ve released the map into the public domain: if you don’t like their labels, or their choice of cities or colours or textures, you can make changes to the map and put out your own version.

Previously: Equal Earth Gets a Wall Map.

Vintage Toronto

Vintage Road Atlas (detail)

It looks like every map style is doomed to be replicated in ArcGIS Pro. See, for example, Warren Davidson’s Vintage Road Atlas: which renders Toronto and its surrounding area in the style of a 1950s tourist map. It’s double-sided and is designed to be folded (which is to say that there are some upside-down bits). The ArcGIS Pro style—which is called Are We There Yet? and can be downloaded here—even simulates the creases and weathering of an old folded map, though it does so a little too regularly if you look closely. (Also there are some inconsistencies in road lines and highway markers: the map is prisoner of its data.)

Previously: Mapping with Style; Maps Middle-earth Style: By Hand and by ArcGIS.

Rethinking the Cone of Uncertainty

A feature of hurricane maps is the so-called cone of uncertainty, which shows the range of likely paths the hurricane is forecasted to follow. The problem is that the cone of uncertainty is easily misinterpreted by the reader. The MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao looks at five ways the cone can be misinterpreted, along with some alternative methods of visualizing a hurricane’s projected path. [Gretchen Peterson]

Equal Earth Gets a Wall Map

It was announced today at NACIS that the Equal Earth projection is now available as a wall map—which is a necessary thing if it’s going to go toe-to-toe with the Peters map. The political wall map is only available as a download (three versions, centred on Africa and Europe, the Americas, or the Pacific): the 19,250 × 10,150-pixel, 350 dpi file results in a 1.4 × 0.74 m (55″ × 29″) print—assuming you have access to a large-format plotter. Not everyone does, so it’s only a matter of time, I suspect, before they have prints available for sale.

The map shows countries and territories in surprising detail (it includes Clipperton, for example); and while it does show disputed regions as such, its choices of boundaries and nomenclature won’t make it many fans in South Korea or India.

Previously: The Equal Earth Projection; Equal Earth Updates; More on Equal Earth.

Mapping with Style

John M. Nelson’s ArcGIS style emulating the maps of Middle-earth is only one of several styles he’s been working on recently. He’s also created other ArcGIS styles emulating classic cartographic designs, including 19th-century physical geography diagrams, Eduard Imhof’s topographic maps, and hachures. Five of these styles, including the Tolkien style, have been collected in a short PDF booklet from Esri, Mapping with Style, Vol. 1, the title of which all but promises at least one sequel.

Previously: Maps Middle-earth Style: By Hand and by ArcGIS.

Maps Middle-earth Style: By Hand and by ArcGIS

John M. Nelson

Dan Bell’s career drawing maps of real-world places in the style of maps of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth continues apace; a recent piece, a map of San Francisco, got written up in the San Francisco Chronicle, and his website is full of other recent works.

But computer mapping may be about to overtake hand-drawn illustration. John M. Nelson has created an ArcGIS style that does the very thing Dan Bell does by hand: emulate the maps of Middle-earth executed by Christopher Tolkien and Pauline Baynes. The style is called, naturally, My Precious: John explains it here and here, and demonstrates the style with this map of the Americas.

There are, of course, some flaws in this method: a mechanical representation of a hand-drawn style risks falling into the uncanny valley’s cartographic equivalent, especially when mountain and forest signs are clone-stamped over large areas. And to be honest I’m not a fan of the Aniron font: those letterforms were used in the Lord of the Rings movies, but never the books’ maps, and now they’re found on damn near every Tolkien-style map, and we hates it, precious, we hates it forever. But Nelson is basically emulating modern fantasy map practice: modern fantasy maps are invariably done in Illustrator, labels are computer generated rather than hand-drawn, and hill signs are clone stamped. Applying it to real-world maps, and GIS software, is new, but a difference in degree.

Previously: Dan Bell’s ‘Tolkien-Style’ Maps of the Lake District.

More on Equal Earth

Equal Earth projection in colour

The Gall-Peters projection is a second-rate projection with first-rate public relations; cartographers’ responses to the projection that focused on its cartographic shortcomings ended up missing the point. Something different is happening with the Equal Earth projection, which was announced last month as a response to Gall-Peters: an equal-area projection with “eye appeal.” It’s getting media traction: the latest news outlet to take notice is Newsweek. So, finally, there’s an alternative that can be competitive on the PR front, without having to mumble something about all projections being compromises until the eyes glaze over.

It’s turning up in GIS packages, too: in D3, in G.Projector and in proj4. There’s even a t-shirt.

Previously: The Equal Earth Projection; Equal Earth Updates.

The Equal Earth Projection

In 2014 cartographer Tom Patterson and his colleagues, Bojan Šavrič and Bernhard Jenny, introduced the eponymous Patterson projection, a cylindrical projection that reduced polar exaggeration while maintaining the familiar shape of continents.1 Patterson, who recently retired from the U.S. National Park Service, has teamed up with Šavrič and Jenny to produce a new projection: the Equal Earth projection.

This projection can be seen as the cartographer’s response to the Peters map: in fact, the team created it in reaction to the furor over the Gall-Peters projection being adopted by Boston public schools. “Our message—that Gall-Peters is not the only equal-area projection—was not getting through,” the authors wrote in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science (mirrored here). “We searched for alternative equal-area map projections for world maps, but could not find any that met all our aesthetic criteria.” Citing their own research into map readers’ projection preferences, they decided against projections like the Eckert IV, Mollweide and sinusoidal and opted to make their own: “a new projection that would have more ‘eye appeal’ compared to existing equal-area projections and to give it the catchy name Equal Earth.”

The end result is a Robinson-like pseudocylindrical projection that nevertheless preserves area—and, like the Robinson, is nicer to look at than a cylindrical equal-area projection like the Gall-Peters. It’s actually kind of impressive that they were able to square that particular circle. The article details their decision-making process and the math behind the projection and is worth a read. It’ll be interesting to see whether this map gains any traction. I wish it well.

Previously: The Patterson Projection; The Peters Projection Comes to Boston’s Public Schools; The Peters Map Is Fighting the Last War; More on Boston Schools and the Peters Map; The 74 on Boston Schools and the Peters Map.

New (17 Aug): Equal Earth Updates.

Dave Imus Profiled; New Edition of His Iconic Map Coming Soon

Dave Imus is in the news again: he’s the subject of this profile by Oregon Public Broadcasting, which looks at his childhood, his career, and his sudden launch to fame and fortune when his iconic, award-winning map of the U.S. was called “the greatest paper map of the United States” by Slate. It also drops a bit of news: Imus is working on a new edition of his map, which will see a limited release in November before the regular version is published in 2019. [Gretchen Peterson]

Previously: The Best Map of Alaska?; David Imus’s Map of Oregon;  David Imus in the Oregonian; A Paper Maps Roundup.

Geographers on Film

Waldo Tobler

The Library of Congress’s Geographers on Film collection is a video archive of interviews with cartographers and geographers conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. About 300 interviews were apparently conducted; 28 are online so far. Interview subjects include Walter Ristow, Arthur Robinson (in 1972 and 1984) and Waldo Tobler, among others.

History of Cartography Project’s Sixth Volume Now Available Online

The History of Cartography Project’s sixth volume, covering the twentieth century, came out three years ago. Edited by Mark Monmonier, it comprised two physical books and nearly two thousand pages and had a list price of $500. That physical edition is still available (e.g. on Amazon), but as of this month it’s available online for free in PDF form, like the first three volumes in the series. (Volumes four and five are still being prepared; volume four, covering the European Enlightenment, is slated to arrive in 2019.) [NLS]