As a full-time cartographer with previous experience as an ecologist, our guest blogger Dan Bell is a huge advocate of the outdoors. In his spare time, he enjoys fell/long distance running and is currently training to become a Mountain Leader in the Lake District! If that wasn’t enough, he also runs Middle Earth’s Maps. Here, he tells us how he has used (Ordnance Survey) OS data in his Tolkien-inspired mapping…
Why are maps useful?
Maps are a window into an unknown landscape. They are simplifications of an increasingly complex world, affording us the opportunity to plan our adventures, make memories, and inspire our curiosities. It is these three attributes of maps and map making that continually motivate my work, in my endeavour to explore the realms of fantasy map creation within a real-world setting.
By Lucie Woellenstein, Graduate Data Scientist
Did you know that there are 50 motorways in Great Britain with over 8,300 km of roads and a whopping 666 junctions? How many junctions have you taken? Or will you be taking as you head off for the summer holidays? Ever tried to come off a motorway junction, only to find you’ve taken the wrong exit and are now heading in the wrong direction? Maybe you’ve driven through the famous ‘Spaghetti Junction’ in Birmingham, and wondered what it looks like from above? Or perhaps you’ve been perplexed at how the most complex of junctions somehow actually work?
Well here at Ordnance Survey, we’ve spent many hours over the years thinking about the interwoven laces of motorway junctions. Not from the perspective of a driver, but that of a cartographer. From data architects conceptually modelling how to capture data, to surveyors capturing the exact GPS locations of our roads, and to the cartographers that digitise the maps you use to travel along the motorways – a lot of thought goes into how to cartographically represent junctions in a way they make sense to the map reader.
Cartographically complex motorway junctions
Celebrate the UK’s first ever Mapping Festival with a week-long programme of education, inspiration, entertainment and most importantly, maps! It’s being held in London from 2-7 September 2018.
The UK Mapping Festival (UKMF) will feature exhibitions, workshops, visits, social gatherings, seminars with Festival guests, and activities for families and young people.
There are three exciting conference days, around the themes of GeoTechnologies, Mapping for the Future and Imagery and Survey in a 3D world. Talks from leading specialists and industry innovators along with hands-on workshops allow you to hear about and experience some of the latest developments in our rapidly changing world.
Guest blog by Sophie Kirkpatrick, Founder of Atlas & I.Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t love an antique map? Their unique charm and history is endlessly relatable and you can never tire of exploring an old map of a sentimental location. To study old maps in antiquarian book shops and libraries is one undertaking, but to own an original antique map is a luxury reserved for the wealthy or bequeathed.
Cartography or map making has been an integral part of human history for thousands of years. The earliest maps are recorded as far back as the 24th century BC, depicting simplistic line drawings of hills, rivers and cities on a clay tablet.
Guest blog by Ewan Campbell, composer of Glynde.
In many ways cartography is to a landscape, what music notation is to sound. They both use two-dimensional visualisations to represent something which is multi-dimensional, and in the process create a beautiful pictorial format of their own. My map enthusiasm is driven by a desire for the overview that a maps offers, and the scope to explore the virtual depiction of a landscape.
There is however a crucial difference between the two idioms: music is always experienced through the temporal dimension, and time, as we know it, can only ever run forwards. No matter how many repeats, verses, loops or recapitulations a composer may decide to add there is always a beginning which at some moment later must be followed by an ending. As a result traditional music notation is linear, and read forwards like a book. The aim of my cartographic music is to make the musical form visible. The 2-dimensional score offers a structural overview of the virtual musical soundscape, which can be imaginatively entered into, just as one would ‘read’ a topographical map.
For April Fool’s Day we challenged one of our most senior and experienced cartographers to create a mythical island for Country Walking magazine. The premise was that this island had been lost to the sea centuries ago, only for it to have now mysteriously risen out of the waves in need of mapping.
Mark Wolstenholme, in his 34 years at OS, has worked across every series of mapping we have. Here he explains how to produce a fictional island in a short time frame, while making it authentic enough to convince as a prank.
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.
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.