Last month marked the seven year anniversary of OS OpenData. We have recently shared insights into how our open products are made and how they are being used. In this post we would like to share some of the other activities we undertake to support our open data and support the community of users, including those involved with free and open source software.
The take-up and effective use of our datasets are fundamental to their success. With this in mind we have produced various resources that lower the barrier to entry and make use easier. We also support the community of users in various ways, from sponsorship of events and awards to the release of assets and resources to lower the barriers of entry.
If you are using, or planning to use OS OpenData then you can find help and support here. There are frequently asked questions and a forum for posting questions and keeping up to date with the latest announcements.
Taking visualisations apart to understand how they were made
Have you ever looked at a map (or any data visualisation for that matter) and thought, I wonder how that was made? If so, then a new concept that we’re calling visual deconstructions, could help.
What is a visual deconstruction?
A visual deconstruction is a concept that our GeoDataViz team have created, allowing them to record the styling rules for a given 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 therefore is a useful tool for someone designing their own visualisation.
For a better idea, here is a minified version of what a visual deconstruction looks like:
We’re pleased to announce that The British Cartographic Society (BCS) are collecting entries for their 2017 awards. Their range of award categories aims to recognize the very best cartographic work and scholarship from around the globe and entries are welcomed from all areas of the mapping community.
We provide the BCS with an award to encourage excellence in cartographic design and the innovative and exciting use of OS OpenData. Over the years, we have had some excellent entries including this winning entry from Ashley Clough at Parallel in 2013.
Our GeoDataViz team took part in the ‘Late at the library: you are here’ event hosted by the British Library, with demos and displays by OS and the Geovation Hub, amongst other mappy delights. Find out what happened at the event.
Hosting ‘Map Your London’, we came equipped with sharpies and an (almost) blank canvas of London. Our aim was to understand how those living in London visualise their city. How do they navigate? How would they depict Big Ben or 30 St Mary Axe? What names do they use to describe historic and modern landmarks? So, armed with a pen we let them get to work…
A fantastic way to inspire a love of cartography at an early age, have you heard of the Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition 2017? Barbara was a leading cartographer whose work related to children. In her memory, the International Cartographic Association holds a biennial competition.
2015 overall winner: The world in our hands by Pan Sin Yi (aged 15)
Colour is one of the main graphic elements that a cartographer uses to make their map clear to read. Amongst other things we use colour to create familiarity, to differentiate features and to create a clear visual hierarchy. There are many things we can do to the features on our maps to change their appearance and many techniques we can apply to adjust the colours. Adjusting opacity levels and applying blend modes are the two techniques that we will explore in this post and we will look at some examples of how we can use them together to create effective visualisations.
Recently we wrote about a British Cartographic Society (BCS) event hosted at our head office, ‘Better Mapping with QGIS’. The one day event saw a mixture of presentations and an afternoon workshop, led by cartographic and industry experts. The culmination of the workshop was a map challenge and we are now pleased to announce the winner!
Congratulations to Steve Richardson who produced this excellent map showing Indices of Multiple Deprivation in Southampton:
Click the image to see a larger version as a PDF
The challenge was to use open data that had been supplied to create a suitable basemap, and then introduce an additional layer from another open source. Mary Spence MBE had earlier introduced the principles of cartographic design and delegates were encouraged to put these into practice when creating their maps.
The second in our new series of blogs from the teams behind our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. Chris Hall, based at our London Geovation Hub, shares his experience on updating OS Maps’ route ratings.
Whilst I was using our OS Maps app to find a new route, I stumbled upon a frustrating experience with the route discovery process in OS Maps. Through some research and visual exploration, I was able to solve the problem.
OS Maps allows users to find and follow routes all over the country. Users can plot their own routes, and share them with the community publicly. To aid the discovery process we allow users to grade their route out of three options to reflect its difficulty. Routes are currently displayed as a pin on the map with a gradient indicator: Green for leisurely; orange for moderate; and red for challenging. This has created a great spread of the types of routes we get in the app, which for the most part works really well. However, one day I discovered this route:
We recently hosted a British Cartographic Society (BCS) event at our head office, ‘Better Mapping with QGIS’. It was a one day event that introduced the fundamentals of cartographic design and culminated in a hands-on QGIS workshop.
We were thrilled to have a packed lecture theatre and the day kicked off with Alex Kent, President of the BCS, welcoming everyone and introducing the agenda for the day. Brief presentations about open data and open source software followed before Mary Spence MBE, past president of the BCS, discussed the fundamentals of cartographic design. Mary took the audience on a tour through great maps and what makes them work, balanced against examples of poor maps and why they don’t before introducing the basic design principles that should be considered.
The first in a new series of blogs from the teams behind many of our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. We start with a tale of collaboration, a rapid feedback process and pies!
It’s never good to be faced with a new problem deep into a project, but it is very satisfying when an effective solution is developed swiftly. During a recent app development sprint, one of our software engineers hit upon one such problem.
The app in question allows the user to select a group of properties which are rendered as point features on the map. Following standard web map convention, these points are aggregated, or clustered, as the user zooms out. This is to make the map more legible and to improve performance; it saves rendering potentially thousands of points in a single map view. Clustering is a fantastic and much-used technique in web mapping applications. Lots of effort has been put into developing slick clustering behaviour and designing effective markers. It works perfectly well if your points are all representing the same phenomena – and that’s where we ran into a problem.
The app we’re developing splits the point features into four discrete categories, therefore, if we apply standard clustering behaviour, we are effectively grouping these categories into one and hiding a level of information from the user. The user will still see a total value to show how many points are aggregated into each cluster – but in this instance they are also interested in how that total is split amongst the four categories.
Cue an informal meeting between software engineer, cartographic designer and UX designer; a mini brainstorm…