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.

Mapping Tornado Migration

John Nelson’s map of tornado migration in the United States, showing the seasonal variations in tornado occurrence, is a master class in data visualization and design—in deciding on the right way to present geographic information. The map combines three styles—impressionistic choropleth, weighted mean centre movement diagram, and small multiple—to present month-by-month information all at once; in the accompanying text (also here), Nelson discusses some of the alternatives he could have chosen instead. And in a separate post he talks about how he made the map. [Esri]

Previously: Mapping Tornado Tracks.

Coming Soon: Kenneth Field’s Open Online Course on Cartography

Esri will be hosting a free, six-week massive open online course (MOOC) on cartography later this year. Called Cartography., it’s taught by Kenneth Field and coincides with the release of Field’s textbook of the same name.

Each weekly lesson in the Cartography. MOOC focuses on the creation of one exemplary map that draws together key cartographic ideas. Lessons consist of about two hours of content, including video discussions, guided and self-guided exercises using ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online, quizzes, interactions between students and instructors, and supplemental resources. Participants who engage with all the course content will receive a certificate of completion and a discount code to purchase Cartography., the book, should they wish to continue their learning.

Registration opens on 18 April and continues until 2 May. It is, as I mentioned, free; Esri expects more than 10,000 people to sign up.

Cartography., the book, is currently scheduled to come out in June.

Two More Books for 2017

The year 2017 is almost at an end, but two more map books, published last month, have just come to my attention (via, as usual, the WMS’s indefatigable Bert Johnson). These, then, are very late additions to the Map Books of 2017 page:

Sad Topographies by Damien Rudd (Simon & Schuster), who “journeys across continents in search of the world’s most joyless place names and their fascinating etymologies.” This appears to be an outgrowth of the author’s sadtopographies Instagram account.1

New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map by Matthew W. Wilson (University of Minnesota Press). “Seeking to bridge a foundational divide within the discipline of geography—between cultural and human geographers and practitioners of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—Wilson suggests that GIS practitioners may operate within a critical vacuum and may not fully contend with their placement within broader networks, the politics of mapping, the rise of the digital humanities, the activist possibilities of appropriating GIS technologies, and more.”

How to Build a Fire Map

Last October Robin Kraft posted an online map of the northern California wildfires showing satellite imagery from before and after the fires (see previous entry); today he’s posted a blog entry explaining how he built it, in great technical detail. The timing is not accidental: “There is another fire raging in Los Angeles right now — if DigitalGlobe and Planet release their data, you can use this guide to make your own map.”

ArcticDEM Release Six Adds Eurasia

The sixth release of the ArcticDEM initiative adds 32 percent more terrain data, mostly in Russia and Scandinavia. ArcticDEM provides a two-metre-resolution digital elevation model for arctic regions north of the 60th parallel, plus those bits of Alaska, Greenland and the Kamchatka Peninsula south of 60. The final product is due out next year. More at Earth & Space Science News. [GIS and Science]

Tomlinson’s Ph.D. Thesis Now Available

James Cheshire reports that the Ph.D. thesis of the “father of GIS,” Roger Tomlinson, has been digitized. Tomlinson completed his thesis, “Geographical Information Systems, Spatial Data Analysis and Decision Making in Government,” at the University College London’s Department of Geography in 1974. It can be downloaded as a PDF at this link.

Cartographies of Disease

The revised edition of Tom Koch’s Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping, and Medicine—“a comprehensive survey of the technology of mapping and its relationship to the battle against disease”—is now out from Esri Press. (Or at least it’s scheduled to be: the paperback is not yet in stock at Amazon.) [GIS Lounge]

Koch is also the author of Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground (2011).

Maclean’s Profiles Nova Scotia’s COGS

Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences, a tiny, 200-student campus in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, gets two writeups in Canada’s national newsmagazine, Maclean’s, as part of its annual campus guide: its unique marine geomatics program is profiled here, and the W. K. Morrison Special Collection, which I told you about last June, is profiled here.

Making Maps, Third Edition

making-maps-3rdOn the Making Maps: DIY Cartography blog, John Krygier announces the third edition of his and Denis Wood’s Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS, out this month from Guilford Press. The new edition of this extremely visual guide includes more than 40 new pages of content, Krygier says, plus new maps and examples and other changes he details in the blog post. Buy at Amazon.

(I reviewed the first edition back in 2006. I knew a lot less about cartography back then, and I suspect it shows.)