Atlas of Design, Volume 3

The third volume of the Atlas of Design is now available for pre-order and will ship some time this month. The Atlas’s 32 maps are listed here; Wired’s report has a gallery of some of them. At least one or two will probably look familiar to my regular readers. Published by the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), the 98-page book costs $35 (with a 25 percent discount for NACIS members like me).

The Financial Times Searches for a Better Election Map

The Financial Times
The Financial Times

Martin Stabe of the Financial Times looks at the paper’s options for displaying the 2016 U.S. presidential results. Which to use, map or cartogram? In the end, neither: they’re going with a dot map—a compromise “that attempts to take the best from the other methods.”

The white underlying geographic map places states in their familiar size, shape and location, allowing them to be identified quickly. Using a cluster of dots rather than a solid fill to represent the outcome ensures that the amount of red and blue on the map accurately reflects states’ weight in the election outcome, rather than the (irrelevant) surface area.

Like the tiled grid cartogram, the number of electoral votes in each state is easy to compare visually without counting or interpreting numbers printed on the map. Because each electoral vote is a discrete mark, it is possible to accurately represent the split electoral votes that are possible in Maine and Nebraska, or the possibility of a faithless elector.

Technical details and source code here.

Previously: A Primer on Election Map CartographyMore Election Cartography Primers.

How the Transit App Got Its Curves

transit-appThe makers of the Transit app (iPhone, Androidlike to point out that whereas Apple’s transit maps are beautiful but basically hand-drawn and added manually and slowly, and Google’s maps are algorithmically generated but look terrible, their maps are algorithmically generated but look smooth and neat. A technical post by their backend developer explains in ridiculous detail how they managed to auto-generate their smooth, curved transit network maps.

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.)

Slate on the New Look of Google Maps

Google Maps’s new, cleaner look, which rolled out last month and replaces clusters of points of interest with coloured “areas of interest,” “represents the company’s ongoing efforts to transform Maps from a navigational tool to a commercial interface and offers the clearest proof yet that the geographic web—despite its aspirations to universality—is a deeply subjective entity,” writes Henry Grabar in Slate.

Don’t Make a Map

Martin Burch, data developer for the Wall Street Journal, has posted his presentation from the GeoJourNews 2016 conference. Called “Don’t Make a Map,” it explores situations where presenting your data in the form of a map is actually a bad idea, and looks at some better alternatives. “Always make a map,” he concludes, “but don’t always publish it.” Very much in the vein of similar pieces by Darla Cameron (of the Washington Post) and Matthew Ericson (of the New York Times). [Carla Astudillo]

Previously: The End of Maps in Seven Charts.

Comparing Google and Apple Map Styles

Justin O’Beirne, who has previously mused about the possibility of a Universal Map and looked at how Google Maps has changed over the past few years, has now embarked on a multi-part comparison of the cartographic designs of Google Maps and Apple Maps. “We’ll take a look at what’s on each map and how each map is styled, and we’ll also try to uncover the biggest differences between the two.” The first part is already up: it looks at city labels, highway markers, road labels, and points of interest, and reveals some interesting divergences in terms what each platform chooses to put on the map. (Note that it’s a very big page, and even on a fast connection the images may take some time to load.) [Cartophilia]

‘What Happened to Google Maps?’


In an essay called “What Happened to Google Maps?” Justin O’Beirne notes that between 2010 and 2016 Google Maps has changed from emphasizing cities at the expense of roads to emphasizing the road network at the expense of cities—a turn he chalks up to the shift to mobile device usage—and turns to a 1960s-era paper map to demonstrate what he thinks a balanced Google Maps should look like. An interesting look at the design choices in online maps. [Cartophilia]

Data Visualization’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and Choropleth Maps

The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham compares two choropleth maps of U.S. population growth: while they look rather different, they use the same data. “The difference between my map and Pew’s—again, they both use the exact same data set—underscores a bit of a dirty little secret in data journalism: Visualizing data is as much an art as a science. And seemingly tiny design decisions—where to set a color threshold, how many thresholds to set, etc.—can radically alter how numbers are displayed and perceived by readers.” [Andy Woodruff]

(Worth mentioning that this is exactly the sort of thing dealt with in Mark Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps.)

The Design Details of Interactive Maps

Axis Maps’s Dave Heyman offers some advice on interactive map design—specifically, on the details, like colour usage and data interfaces. “Academic cartography provides good guidelines for thematic cartography, but interactivity and user-interface design are often ‘I know it when I see it’ type of things. What follows are 4 quick design concepts and techniques that can be applied in many situations to improve the look and feel of an interactive map.” [via]

New National Maps of Switzerland


Switzerland is updating its official map series. The new maps are digitally based and use new fonts, symbols and colours—railways, for example, are now in red. They replace the 1:25,000 series that dates back to the 1950s; all 247 sheets should be replaced by 2019. You can compare the old and new map designs on this interactive map (screencap above). [via]

A Multilingual Map of India

Arun Ganesh talks about making a multilingual map of India: “Hardly anyone in India even knows that OSM can handle regional languages, simply because its not visible anywhere on the map. After some recent interest from the community in making regional language maps for, I decided to give this a shot to make a multilingual place map for India using OSM and Mapbox Studio that I have been playing with recently.”