Launching the GeoDataViz Toolkit

We mentioned in a previous post that we’ve been developing a toolkit of assets and resources and we are pleased to say that v0.1 is now available.

The GeoDataViz Toolkit is a set of resources that will help you communicate your data effectively through the design of compelling visuals.

What is in the toolkit?

Basemaps – Often referred to as a contextual or backdrop map, a basemap contains reference information used to both orient the map and add context to any data that is overlaid. We are providing information about the OS range of basemap styles, the colour values for each and some best practice guidance.

One of our range of OS basemap styles (Road – we also have Outdoor, Light and Night)

Colours – The use of colour is very often fundamental to the success of a data visualisation. Colour can help with many elements of your design from improving visual contrast to simply catching the eye. Careful use of colour enhances clarity, aids storytelling and draws a viewer into your dataset. Poor use of colour can obscure data, or even mislead.

In the toolkit, we’re making available a recommended set of colour palettes, information on how to apply colour to your visualisations and links to other useful colour resources.

A selection of our colour palettes

Symbols – Symbols help us to include lots of detail on maps. Maps often contain symbols instead of words to label real-life features and make the maps clearer. With so many features on a map, there would not be enough space to write everything down in words.

Symbols can be small pictures, letters, lines or coloured areas to show features like campsites, pubs or bus stations. If you look closely at a map, you will see that it is covered in symbols. There will often be a legend (or key) next to the map to tell you what the symbols mean.

In our toolkit you will find a set of OS map symbols (in SVG format), information on how to use symbols effectively and links to other useful map symbol resources.

A selection of our symbols with customised colours

Visual deconstructions – A visual deconstruction is a method of recording the styling rules for a data visualisation. It is made up of a title, a description, a url where relevant, keyword tags, an image, plus the draw order and styling information for each layer of data from which it is compiled.

It is a form of documentation that allows you to quickly reference and recreate styling rules, as well as being able to share it clearly with others. It is also a great way to learn how something is made and is a useful tool for someone designing their own visualisation.

We’re sharing our visual deconstructions and supplying templates so that you can create and share your own. We introduced this new concept back in May and would love to see it being used to share the design details of maps and data visualisations more widely.

Our Cartographic Design Principles and Cartographic Stylesheets also form part of our toolkit and we will be adding more content over time.

The resources in the toolkit are augmented by our blog posts, our workshops and #CartoClinic – use this hashtag to ask us questions on Twitter (@cartocraftsman and @charley_glynn).

It’s our intention to pull all of these resources and assets together into one place on our website, but we were keen to release it early and gather feedback to help us improve and tailor the content.

How we use it at OS

We have been using the GeoDataViz Toolkit within our team all year. It has helped us work more efficiently and enabled us to bring greater consistency to our portfolio of work. You can see this on our Flickr gallery if you scroll down to view our most recent images. Having assets readily available saves a lot of time in our work and means we can concentrate on other aspects of the design process. This allows us to focus on telling the right stories and ensuring that we meet the user requirements.

We have been sharing the toolkit within OS for the past few months and have seen some great results from our colleagues. We have supported the assets and resources with a series of workshops focussed on the technical application. Again, the element of consistency is important but it also allows for others to focus their efforts on their own area of expertise. We have used this as an opportunity to gather feedback and improve on the resources before launching.

Our colleague Steve Kingston (Consultancy and Technical Services) used our colour palettes to great effect when he delivered a project for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)

Sharing knowledge

Our team has been sharing knowledge and useful resources for a while now and the toolkit is a culmination of lots of work that has gone before it. It is based on and inspired by our own work, Ordnance Survey’s vast heritage of world class maps and the plethora of resources that are available from the fantastic community of which we are lucky to be part of. There are lots of cartographers and data visualisers who share articles, tutorials and helpful resources and we are indebted to many of them as we all benefit from their work and ideas.

What we are launching in the toolkit are not hard and fast rules, they are guidelines, recommendations and best practices. Using them may help you save time and concentrate your own efforts on refining other areas of your visualisations. For example, choosing the right visualisation type is often not a trivial process and it can take some time to explore the many options available.

On 28 November we are giving a Geotech Masterclass at the Geovation Hub where we will be introducing the toolkit and using it during the hands-on elements of the workshop.

Feedback most welcome

Consider this a beta launch – it’s our intention to move all of this content to one place on our website, however we were keen to get it to users early. We would love your feedback and it will be valuable to help us improve the toolkit so please feel free to raise an issue on the Github repository.

Enjoy some snippets of our GeoDataViz:

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Tutorial – visualising data in Tableau with the RNLI
Tutorial – visualising data in Kepler with the RNLI
Tutorial – visualising data in QGIS with the RNLI

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