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.
The makers of the Transit app (iPhone, Android) like 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.
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.
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]
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.)
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]
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]
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 openstreetmap.in, 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.”
Cameron Booth’s latest project is a New York subway map in the form of the London Tube Map: “A little while ago, someone asked me on my Transit Maps blog whether I had ever seen a map of the New York subway system in the style of the London Underground diagram. Rather surprisingly, I hadn’t actually come across one, so I decided to draw one up myself.”
I’m surprised someone hasn’t done one already, but then there’s the problem of service pattern complexity unique to New York, which Cam handles by simply not handling it—making this a design exercise rather than a usable map. “The map certainly looks attractive, but the Tube Map’s style is ill-suited to the intricate working complexities of the New York subway system.”
Saman Bemel Benrud, a designer at Mapbox, looks to print maps for inspiration. “I like looking at print maps because they remind me how far web map design has to go. Even an average print map involves a designer making thousands of small decisions about where to place individual features and how to kern and size each label,” he writes. “You can’t work like that with web maps that are global and zoomable.” Still, he provides some favourite design elements from paper maps; it’d be interesting to see how they might be rendered online.