Landforms of Michigan

Daniel Huffman, “Landforms of Michigan” (2020).

Daniel Huffman finally finished a map he’d been working on, off and on (though mostly off), for years. Landforms of Michigan appeared in draft form on this 2016 blog post about mapping terrain using Photoshop layers; last week, Daniel says, “I finally overcame my inertia enough to finish it.” It’s available as a large poster on Zazzle.

Brewer Wins Miller Medal

O. M. Miller MedalBelatedly noted, thanks to a story in Penn State News last month: Cynthia Brewer was awarded the American Geographical Society’s O. M. Miller Cartographic Medal at the AGS’s symposium last fall. Brewer, a geography professor at Penn State since 1994, is the author of Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users (previously) and the creator of the ColorBrewer colour design tool for cartographers. The Miller medal is no minor award: this is only the eighth time it’s been awarded since it was created in 1968; past recipients have included Waldo Tobler, Arthur Robinson, Mark Monmonier and, in 2017, John Hanke and Brian McClendon (basically, the team behind Google Maps). Brewer is the first woman to receive the award.

‘Cartograph’: History of a Back Formation

Inspired by its appearance in a recent science fiction novel,1 Matthew Edney explores the history of the odd word “cartograph”—a back formation of “cartography” whose existence suggests circumstances in which “map” is somehow insufficient. Edney traces three kinds of uses of the term: one referring to an early 20th-century instrument; one as a synonym for pictorial maps in the mid-20th century; and one, post-1980, that refers to map products that don’t, for some reason, adhere to Western cartographic ideals. (This piece expands on Edney’s book-length critique of the normative ideal of cartography, Cartography: The Ideal and Its History, which I reviewed here last October.)

Mapping the Canadian Election Results: Technical Details

Bothered by the widespread use of Web Mercator by Canadian news outlets to show last week’s election results, Kenneth Field has posted an article that aims to address the problem. Static maps of Canada tend to use a conic projection like the Albers or the Lambert, and that’s the case for print election maps as well. Online interactive maps, on the other hand, use off-the-shelf tools that use Web Mercator, which results in the sparsely populated territories looking even more enormous. But that doesn’t have to be the case, says Ken, who shows us, with a few examples, how use ArcGIS Pro to create interactive maps using a conical projection.

Meanwhile, Mark Gargul writes in response to Ken’s critique of his cartogram of the election results. Mark describes himself as an amateur and readily admits that other cartograms are “clearly more aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, I was going for something different with my cartogram—specifically, to try to preserve riding-adjacency as much as possible.”

The other thing Mark was going for in his cartogram was to indicate the urban-rural split: metropolitan areas are given a black border: it’s easy to see which ridings are in Montreal or Toronto; seats that are partially urban and partially rural straddle those borders.

So it’s doing several things at once that may not be immediately apparent.

Previously: A Cartogram of Canada’s Election Results; More Canadian Election Maps.

Cartography: The Ideal and Its History

Matthew H. Edney’s Cartography: The Ideal and Its History (University of Chicago Press, April) is a full-throated jeremiad against the concept of cartography itself—the ideal of cartography, which after 237 densely argued pages Edney says “is quite simply indefensible.” Or as the subtitle to the first chapter states: “There is no such thing as cartography, and this is a book about it.”

On the surface this is a startling argument to make, particularly for Edney, who holds two roles that are very much about cartography and its history: he’s the Osher Professor in the History of Cartography at the University of Southern Maine (where, among other things, he’s affiliated with the Osher Map Library) and the current director of the History of Cartography Project. With this book, Edney is essentially undermining the foundations of his own profession.

Continue reading “Cartography: The Ideal and Its History”

Everything’s Coming Up Spilhaus

John Nelson

John Nelson reports that the Spilhaus projection will be supported in the next version of ArcGIS—version 2.5, to be released in a few months. This odd projection, which centres Antarctica on a world map showing the oceans as a single, uninterrupted body of water; went viral last year. Requests for ArcGIS support soon followed. Thing is, ArcGIS support requires the math behind the projection: figuring out that math took some sleuthing. The Spilhaus is, it turns out, basically an oblique aspect of the Adams World in a Square II projection.

Previously: About the Spilhaus Projection.

MonoCarto 2019 Winners Announced

The winners—or as Daniel Huffman is calling them, the “final selection”—of the Monochrome Mapping Competition (now called MonoCarto 2019) have been announced. All 15 of them, with notes from the judges on why each of them was awesome.

The premise of the competition—a map made with any tint of a single colour of “ink”—was fascinating, and the resulting maps put paid to any assumption that you couldn’t produce a visually appealing or informative map with just one colour. The diversity of map styles is something to see as well.

Previously: Monochrome Mapping Competition Announced.

Reviews of Edney’s Cartography

Matthew Edney’s Cartography: The Ideal and Its History was published by the University of Chicago Press last April. I have a review copy and a review is in the works. While you’re waiting for me to get said review written, here are a couple of reviews to tide you over: one from Steven Seegel at New Books Network; and one (behind a paywall) at Times Higher Education from Jerry Brotton.

(Incidentally, Seegel is the author of Map Men: Transnational Lives and Deaths of Geographers in the Making of East Central Europe: a review of that is forthcoming as well. Brotton has several books to his name: he’s co-author of this year’s Talking Maps, and in 2012 published A History of the World in 12 Maps, which I reviewed here.)

Related: Map Books of 2019.

A Map Projections Roundup

Three things make a roundup. Here we go:

Here’s a gallery of all 68 map projections supported in ArcGIS 10.7.1 and ArcGIS Pro 2.4, from Bojan Šavrič and Melita Kennedy. Some interesting projections included here, some of which are only suitable for a specific region (such as the complex New Zealand map grid). No Gall-Peters, interestingly.

Chris Whong

Chris Whong uses a clementine as a substitute for Tissot’s indicatrix: “I found myself eating a clementine this morning, and thought it would be interesting to slice up the orange peel on an 8×8 grid to visualize how much of the earth’s surface is represented in WebMercator tiles at zoom level 3. This is kind of an inverse of the Tissot’s Indicatrix above, showing chunks of the spheroid’s surface over the projected tiles that represent them in web maps.”

Alberto Cairo’s short piece arguing that the Mercator projection isn’t a monstrosity doesn’t cover particularly new ground: the Mercator was created for a specific purpose (bearing-based navigation) and is a good choice for small-scale maps, but it has no business on a world map. But it’s probably worth reiterating, since I still see over-the-top condemnations of the projection on colonialist grounds, channeling Arno Peters (which, you know: not new).

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.