The End of Maps in Seven Charts

Here’s a short talk from last year by Washington Post graphics editor Darla Cameron, who points out that many maps actually show population density rather than the data they purport to show. “Just because you have geographic data, that doesn’t mean that a map is a best way to tell the story.” She offers some alternative ways to present information—non-cartographic ways—that in some cases do a better job than a map could. (Heretical, I know.) In a similar vein, read the blog post by Matthew Ericson that she refers to at the end of the talk: “When Maps Shouldn’t Be Maps.” [via]

Weekend Read: Denis Wood

Inverse has an interview with iconoclastic cartographer Denis Wood, in which he is as thought-provoking as ever (e.g., “Maps are arguments about the way we think the world should be or could be. They are arguments made in graphic form.”). [via]

Not mentioned in the interview—but mentioned in this 2014 Wired piece and in Unmappable, a short documentary about Wood that is currently making the rounds of the film festival circuit—is Wood’s 1996 conviction for sex with a minor and subsequent prison term, a fact that is public but not necessarily talked about openly (despite blogging frequently about his work, I only learned about it through the Wired piece) and makes discussing Wood and his work rather complicated: mention the fact and it overshadows, fail to mention it and it’s conspicuous by its absence. Either way, ignoring Wood is difficult.

Best Maps from the Journal of Maps

TJOM_Best_Map_2015Since 2008 the online Journal of Maps has been giving an award to the “best map” published in its virtual pages; 2015’s winner is a map of municipalities in the Czech Republic created by Vít Pászto, Alžběta Brychtová, Pavel Tuček, Lukáš Marek and Jaroslav Burian for their article “Using a fuzzy inference system to delimit rural and urban municipalities in the Czech republic in 2010.” Past winners are available for purchase as prints (of various sizes). [via]

The Journal of Maps launched in 2005. I believe it was open-access at that point; since coming under the umbrella of Taylor & Francis in 2012, it no longer appears to be.

Monmonier on Critical Cartography

Mark Monmonier has posted an essay sharply critical of critical cartography and its distance from its own subject. It was originally commissioned as part of the forthcoming Cartographic Grounds but cut for reasons of space. Very incisive; I could quote you some but I’d end up quoting the whole damn essay. Go read. [via]

Cartographic Design Principles

A couple of years ago the Ordnance Survey posted a series of cartographic design principles to inform and promote “good map design.” The principles are understanding user requirements, a consideration of the display format (e.g., paper vs. web), simplicitylegibilityconsistencyaccessibility (everything from data format to colourblind inclusiveness to licensing), a clear visual hierarchy, and good composition. (Last year the Ordnance Survey’s blog published a series of posts on these principles, using mostly similar text but different examples.)

Designing Better Maps Reviewed

DesigningBetterMaps_lg Gretchen Peterson reviews the second edition of Cynthia Brewer’s Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users (Esri Press, December 2015). “I’d say it’s much better than the previous edition. All the images have been updated and are now in keeping with modern cartography practices. All the typical things that you need to know are covered from fonts and labels to color and layout.” Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet

OpenStreetMap, using Web Mercator, all zoomed out
OpenStreetMap

I’ve said it before: if you want to start a fight among cartographers, ask them what their favourite map projection is. Earlier this week I did just that: I felt mischievous and wanted to try out Twitter’s polling feature, so I ran a poll asking my Map Room followers what the best projection for world maps was. And because I was feeling particularly mischievous, I made sure to include both the often-reviled Mercator projection and its antithesis, the Peters projection, rounding out the list with two less controversial choices: the Winkel tripel projection used by National Geographic, and the brand-new Patterson projection announced late last year.

The results of the poll were utterly unexpected: 42 percent chose the Mercator projection.

Continue reading “How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet”

Mercator Puzzle

Mercator Puzzle (screenshot)

The Mercator Puzzle is an excellent way to visualize the distortions inherent in the Mercator projection, which conserves angles (useful for navigation) by exaggerating size at the poles (problematic in virtually every other use). Click and drag the countries in this in-browser app to see just how dramatically larger or smaller they become as you move them closer to and further away from the poles. [Boing Boing]

Previously: Review: Rhumb Lines and Map Wars; Reversing the Mercator Effect.

History of Cartography Project’s Sixth Volume Now Out

History of Cartography Volume 6 (book covers)

The sixth volume of the massive History of Cartography Project, Cartography in the Twentieth Century, is now available. Edited by Mark Monmonier, it takes two physical volumes and nearly two thousand pages to cover mapmaking in the twentieth century—and lists for an eye-popping $500 (U.S.), though it’s a bit cheaper on Amazon.

Volumes one through three are available for free download. Volumes four and five, covering the European Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, respectively, are still in development.

Previously: History of Cartography Project Co-Founder Dies.

The Patterson Projection

Patterson Projection

Map projections are inherently interesting, and also a great way to start a fight among a group of cartographers: just ask them their favourite and step back. Everyone has their preferred projection, me included, that fits their own needs and aesthetic. Cartographer Tom Patterson, whose work I’ve featured previously on The Map Room, has added another projection to the mix, the eponymous Patterson Projection, a cylindrical projection which “falls between the popular Miller 1, which excessively exaggerates the size of polar areas, and the Plate Carrée, which compressess the north-south dimension of mid latitudes.” It looks like a compromise projection in cylindrical form. A full article on the design and development of the projection is forthcoming at the link.

Previously: Shaded Relief World Map and Flex Projector; New, Free Physical Map of the United States; Shaded Relief.