What is an annotation?
“a note by way of explanation or comment added to a text or diagram.”
Synonyms: notation, comment, footnote; commentary, explanation.
Sometimes referred to as data labels or captions, annotations are often added to charts to add an extra layer of useful information for the reader. Think of it like using a highlighter on a block of written text. We can purposefully guide our readers to view certain aspects of the data that are important.
Why are they so useful?
Annotations can help:
Critique is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a detailed analysis and assessment of something and in 2010 Judith Tyner released the book Principles of Map Design and included the diagram on the right, defining the map making process.
Map critique plays an important role in the design process and this is for a number of reasons:
- Feedback will improve your map – If you always think you’re right, how do you know for sure your map is actually any good and doing what it is intended?
- It allows you to analyse the way you work – Constructive criticism can lead you away from bad practices and towards good ones. Mistakes can be spotted and you can learn from them.
- It can give you an advantage – Criticism can be information that perhaps no one else has, making your map a better one. This is valuable information and give you an edge amongst your competitors.
The UK Mapping Festival is a unique collaboration between all those who create, distribute, use and enjoy maps in all their forms. Involving professional bodies, learned societies, government agencies, commercial companies, educational bodies, interest groups and enthusiasts, working to put on a series of events over a six-day period during the week of 2–7 September 2018.
A map is a graphical visualisation of the world around us and is made up using a variety of symbols to help us represent that geography.
Maps use symbols to label real-life features and make the maps clearer. With so many features on a map, there would not be enough space to label everything with text.
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.
As we start a new year we thought it would be a good time to reflect on 2017 and also look ahead to 2018. 2017 was our first year with the new team name, GeoDataViz, prior to which we had been known as CartoDesign. You can read more about the changes we made and the reasons why here.
Throughout the year we saw and heard an increasing number of things from many others that validated our decision to make these changes to our team. We always want to stay relevant and forward-thinking and we feel that we are really well placed to do this. It was much more than just a change of name for us – more a change of mindset and a new approach to data. We’re now more journalistic and we aim to tell compelling visual stories rather than just map topography. When working through a project we are now asking more questions, challenging requirements, digging deeper and looking for different angles to tease out narratives and insights.
One of our big achievements last year was the release of our GeoDataViz Toolkit (read more about the release here). Our toolkit is a set of resources that will help you communicate your data effectively through the design of compelling visuals. It is something that we developed and used ourselves throughout 2017 and it enabled us to be more efficient and consistent, allowing us to free up time to work on other things.
What is a basemap?
Often referred to as a contextual or backdrop map, a basemap contains reference information used to both orient the viewer and add context to any data that is overlaid. Basemaps come in a variety of types, styles, and scales, from full detail to muted ‘background’ styles.
In this post we want to explore the options available and share some useful tips for presenting your contextual data effectively.
What are the options?
When it comes to choosing a basemap there are many choices available, from creating your own to using a provided service. Let’s look in more detail at some of these options:
Raster maps are images made up of pixels. The content is set and the scale and style are predefined however it is possible to make minor alterations to the look and feel of them. If you’re using a raster basemap then it’s often a good idea to desaturate the colours, reduce the opacity or even convert it to greyscale. This will help your overlays stand out more clearly.
GeoTech masterclasses are a popular series of events organised by the team at our Geovation Hub in Clerkenwell Green, London. These workshops are not to be missed and book up quickly and it was on a chilly November evening that the Hub played host to the GeoDataViz (GDV) team.
Kicking off the session was Charley Glynn who gave an overview of the team and the important role we play within OS. Our role involves making sense of complex data through compelling visuals and we do that through a number of different techniques and using a range of software.
To emphasise this Charley took us on a journey through some of our recent work including our visuals for the CityVerve project and OS Custom Made. You can find out more about our team and the type of work we do here.
Next up was Paul Naylor who introduced the new GeoDataViz toolkit, a set of assets and resources that can help with communicating data effectively through the design of compelling and informative visuals.
What is in the toolkit?
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.
By Paul Naylor
The British Cartographic Society (BCS) and the Society of Cartographers (SoC) joint conference recently got underway at the Redworth Hall Hotel in Durham. After months of careful planning and organisation the stage was set for three days of inspirational presentations, hands-on workshops and the annual BCS/SoC awards ceremony.
Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the work of our Cartographic Designers. The team have been posting a variety of articles here since 2013 from reviews of events to sharing helpful resources. The team recently made some changes to the way in which they work and the work that they undertake, including a name change; from Cartographic Design to GeoDataViz.
In this post the team will consider some of the reasons why, and what the changes mean for them, their work and our customers.
This visualisation, which we created in June 2016, was the trigger for us to review our team and led to the changes that we have made subsequently. It was the first time that we had published a geographic visualisation that doesn’t contain any topographic data. We simply plotted the GPS data using colour techniques that help represent the density. This method is much more abstract (possibly considered as more art than science) than our traditional topographic maps but we felt it gave us a more engaging and visually stunning visualisation.