At Ordnance Survey we are committed to ensuring that our products are as easy to use as possible.
There is a growing need for our customers and partners to visually present our vector products in a suitable style, increasingly when it comes to serving mapping over the internet. For example, many companies serve Ordnance Survey maps via their Intranet service. Setting up these types of web-based services can be quite a time consuming process. Once all the geographic data has been loaded into a suitable database it can often take a while to apply the cartography – the visual portrayal of the data.
Understanding this, in December last year we released a set of Styled Layer Descriptors (SLDs) as one approach to help reduce the time and resource needed to properly apply cartographic styling. SLDs are commonly used in conjunction with a web server to style data for a web map service (WMS). Our SLDs have been developed in an open structured format and can also be converted to desktop GIS readable style sheets, enabling vector products to reflect the familiar Ordnance Survey look and feel.
The SLDs can be downloaded free of charge under an open license which allows the modification of map features e.g. changing the colour of roads. They are available for all the products that we serve through our own WMS, OS OnDemand, including OS MasterMap Topography Layer and OS VectorMap Local.
As the Cartographic Design and Development team we get to work on a diverse range of projects and create lots of different and interesting maps. Although it is the paper maps and digital map products that are most recognisable, we also create lots of custom maps for various events, charities and internal projects. In order to share some of these other maps we have recently created galleries on flickr and Pinterest. They are both great platforms for sharing images, and in our case maps!
Flickr is a popular image sharing website and online community that is popular with photographers. It has recently had a revamp making it more user-friendly and is now a really great showcase of our work. We have created a CartoDesign set which you can see here:
Last month Paul attended a workshop on Web Cartography for National Spatial Data Infrastructure’s at the Faculty Club in Leuven, Belgium.
Leuven is situated about 25 kilometres east of Brussels and is home to Anheuser-Busch In Bev, the world’s largest brewer group. The workshop saw a number of National Mapping Agencies (NMA’s) and other organisations get together to present on a number of topics around web cartography.
The workshop began with Sebastien Mustière from Institut Geographique National (IGN), France, giving the first presentation on the work done through their ‘Géoportail’, a web mapping service that publishes maps and aerial imagery ofFrance and its territories.
Sebastian spoke about the necessity for consistent styling and representation of features across all map scales focussing on the need to maintain user experience. He highlighted this by showing some work IGN have done to standardise map legends and to automatically derive up-to-date vector maps from vector geographic databases.
Whether they’ve been making maps for 20 years or two weeks, just like any designer, cartographers need inspiration when starting their latest project. Inspiration can come from many places and take many forms. Here at Ordnance Survey we use a range of resources and we want to share some of them with you. In this post we list several online resources that can help with your latest map design; from choosing the right colour palette to selecting great fonts. Some of these resources are specific to map-making and some are more general. It is worth noting that they are not tools for making maps but tools to help with the map design process.
Although by no means a definitive list, these are some of the tools and resources that we refer to and use regularly and we have sorted them into four categories: colours, fonts, symbols and map inspiration:
The use of colour is very often fundamental to the success of a map. Colour can help with many elements of map design from improving visual contrast to simply catching the eye.
ColorBrewer 2.0 is a great tool for selecting colour schemes that are specific to maps, especially helpful when mapping various classes of data.
We recently attended a talk by Michael Palin at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London. Hosted by the British Cartographic Society (BCS), this talk was billed as the headline event in a year that marks the society’s 50th anniversary.
Upon our rain-drenched arrival, we took to our seats in the impressive Ondaatje Theatre and waited intently as BCS president, Peter Jones introduced the guest speaker to the stage. As former president of the Royal Geographical Society, Michael Palin was in familiar surroundings. He began his hour-long talk by reciting memories of his childhood when he would spend long periods of time pensively poring over maps and atlases, overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the world. It was these graphical depictions of the world that ignited his desire to travel, something for which he is now notorious. His love of maps was evident as he told of one atlas that he owns and treasures, a family heirloom which he has had refurbished. Of the maps that accompany him on his travels he said, “maps, like notebooks, are the raw materials of my work, constant companions.”
In 1854 a severe outbreak of cholera swept through the Soho district of London, resulting in the death of hundreds of people. Many believed the cause of deaths were linked to ‘bad air’, however a physician named John Snow was determined to get to the bottom of the devastating outbreak.
John Snow strongly believed that the deaths were linked to the local areas water supply and began to mark the locations of each death as a dot on a map centred on Bond Street (now Broadwick Street). The map highlighted large clusters of fatalities in the vicinity of the Bond Street pump, from where residents used to get their water from. Snow suspected that this water pump was the source of the outbreak.
In order to add more proof to his theory Snow added a further line to his map – an irregular shaped loop that marked the boundary between the Broad Street pump and other water pumps in the area. The new boundary line showed the residents and workers who could access the Broad Street pump the quickest.
The map now clearly displayed that the majority of deaths had occurred within the drawn boundary, reinforcing the fact that the Broad Street pump was the source. This map became the central piece of evidence that convinced the authorities of cholera’s waterborne transmission and of their need to improve the sewer system.
Recently we told you about the new OS OpenData Award that we’re providing to the British Cartographic Society, offering you the chance to win an Apple iPad. Today we bring you a guest blog from one of our Cartographic Designers, Charley Glynn, who has used one of our freely available products to map all five of our head offices from 1791 to the present day:
As cartographic designers,my team and I get a lot of opportunity to design and develop topographic maps. We’re very familiar with making leisure maps and creating custom styles for contextual maps which is why we are particularly excited when we get the opportunity to submit work into map galleries. They give us the chance to build on our own map ideas, exercise our creativity and try out new tools and techniques. One such gallery is being hosted at the FOSS4G 2013 conference, the global conference for free and open source software for geospatial use, organised by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation. With that and our new BCS OS OpenData Award in mind I decided to take this opportunity to create something different from my ‘norm’.
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.
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.