Rewarding the art of cartography

The purpose of art is often described as holding a mirror up to nature – yet the process of creating a map is often considered as something in the realm of engineers and scientists. Turning data captured by a surveyor into a map feature is definitely a matter for science, requiring precision and accuracy, but representing these features graphically needs people with graphical design skills, using symbols and colour to communicate the design of the landscape.

Creating a map or creating art?

The creation of maps is a fusion of art, design, science and IT and this is what makes it fascinating for me and many others that work at Ordnance Survey.

Spanning all areas of the map making process are the cartographic design consultants. I recently met with this team to learn more about their role.

The role of the Cartographic Designer includes many areas of map production including work with product development; from the conception of a new idea, through early prototypes to the cartographic styling of the delivered product.

They also carry innovative work with OS Labs, helping to create ‘proof of concept’ ideas for future map related products and tools.

The Cartographic Design team also works closely on cartographic styling, showcased by the new common styles for Ordnance Survey vector and raster map products as well as having a close relationship with marketing and the partner team.

Encouraging innovation

One area from the team I was particularly interested to hear about was how they engage with customers to promote the best use of digital mapping, through the British Cartographic Society (BCS) awards.

Ordnance Survey has provided an award category to the competition since 1995 and this year is introducing a new format for entries. The new OS OpenDataTM award, managed by the BCS will focus on innovative use of OS OpenData and the prize will be awarded based on the fitness for the declared purpose of the mapping, as well as the overall cartographic quality and design.

Christopher Wesson, Cartographic Design Consultant at Ordnance Survey comments:

OS OpenData is a set of geographic data, including map products that can be freely downloaded from the Ordnance Survey website. It can be used for many purposes from simply applying geographic context to 3rd party datasets to helping solve complex geographic problems.  Using a variety of software, from GIS to web mapping, OS OpenData can be transformed into an unlimited range of functions and applications across desktops, mobile and the web.

With the data available to anyone and everyone, wherever and whoever they might be, we are really looking forward to some exciting entries this year.  We will be looking for a good combination of innovative use of OpenData alongside excellence in cartographic design.

About the awards

Enter and you could win an iPad, perfect for using our OS MapFinder app

The award entries must be in by the end of July, so start your designing work soon. The winning entry will be announced at the BCS awards ceremony in September with the winner receiving a trophy, a framed certificate and an Apple iPad (perfect for viewing digital maps and using OS MapFinder).

To wet your artistic appetite, here are some great examples of the work that BCS members have created – I hope to bring you about the art and science of map creation from our Cartographic Design & Development team very soon.

Note: If you wish to contact the cartographic design team, please do so via oscarto@ordnancesurvey.co.uk

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