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.
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.
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: