Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

City Maps Revision Details

July 25th, 2016

The revision to City Maps: A coloring book for adults went live in all outlets the week of July 11, 2016. Did you know it can be ordered from your local bookstore as well as most major online retailers? You don’t have to order from the Amazon links here on this page, though I do earn some extra spare change if you do.

For this revision, almost all the maps were updated in some way or other. In fact, out of the 44 maps in the book, 36 were revised! A few of the maps had slight scale adjustments but for the most part they depict the exact same locations but with better line work. I’m thinking that taking a close look at what was accomplished in the revision could be super constructive to other cartographers facing similar issues.

TINY SPACES There were some tiny squares in some of the original book’s maps. Occasional complaints about the spaces being too small to color surfaced. To address this, I did eliminate many of the small polygons. For example, in the Venice maps, many of these small polygons represent courtyards within larger polygons representing buildings. Most of the smallest of these were eliminated as shown.

Venice Small Spaces Before

Venice Before

Venice Small Spaces After

Venice After

In other cases I did leave in small polygons. For example, I was particularly enamored with the visual contrast between Tokyo’s Yoyogi park and the area directly surrounding it. I felt that not only were the small polygons necessary for the understanding of the location, they were also not too hard to color if you chose to make them all a single hue and colored them with broad strokes.

Tokyo's Yoyogi Park, Small Buildings Not Removed In Order To Preserve Visual Contrast

Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, Small Buildings Not Removed In Order To Preserve Visual Contrast

 

CRISSCROSSING ROAD CASING (say that 3 times fast) One of the main differences between the original coloring book and this revision is the correction of cased road merge rules. QGIS aficionados should be alerted that this is resolved via the properties>style>advanced>symbol levels>enable symbol levels check box. This was an embarrassing error on my part as the original version did have a lot of clutter from this problem. My error was not in neglecting to notice it (oh boy did I ever notice it) but in not knowing that this was an easy fix. Live and learn and hopefully teach others how to do it better, that’s what I’m aiming for here!

Crisscrossing Casing

Crisscrossing Casing

Crisscrossing Casing Corrected

Crisscrossing Casing Corrected

 

NEIGHBORHOODS OSM contributors sometimes delineate the insides of city blocks with polygons that conflict slightly with the borders indicated by street casings. A similar issue is that in some cases polygons represent entire neighborhoods, which also can conflict with road and building lines and polygons by being slightly off geometrically. In most cases I eliminated these conflicts in the revised coloring book.

In this example, I show a before and after of London’s Kew Gardens area. They aren’t a 1:1 scale comparison because I felt it best to zoom into the area a bit for the revised map. But you can see how there are many line conflicts in the before image where overlapping polygons ended up looking visually like abnormally thick lines. There were many other issues fixed in this before/after slice as well.

Kew_Catastrophe

Kew Catastrophe

Kew Corrected

Kew Corrected

Vancouver’s Granville Island map was a great example of this problem. The map was a mess due to the overlapping issue. This was resolved in the revision.

Granville Egad

Granville Egad

Granville Great

Granville Great

Linewidths were also adjusted in the Granville revision. Not every issue was eliminated. As I write this I see some slight problems there in the upper-middle that weren’t resolved. Dang it! But overall this map in particular is about 100% better than before.

BRIDGES Bridges are represented in many different ways, it seems, in OSM data. I imagine that they are a problem especially due to the fact that OSM editors would naturally choose waterways as places to leave off their digitizing for the day, or to leave off their digitizing entirely. So in some places bridge lines don’t exist at all (e.g., the Manila port area) and in others the bridges don’t connect to the surrounding roadways in a seamless way. Where there were bridge problems, I corrected them by hand to the best of my ability as shown.

Botched Bridge

Botched Bridge

Better Bridge

Better Bridge

Google streetview

Google streetview (keep in mind Google is in Mercator while the coloring book Paris map is in Lambert NTF EPSG 27561 so there is a slight skew in what shows up here vs. the maps above.)

 

CANALS The canals in Venice were “cut off” from the Grand Canal even though we intuitively think that a map should show them as “connected.” The OSM data has a single enclosed polygon representing the Grand Canal. This makes it easy for a geoanalyst to, for example, select just the Grand Canal for whatever purpose. However, a coloring book user has a different interest, namely, to color all the canals the same color. Therefore, I felt it was in the colorer’s best interest to change this representation in the revised book.

Connected Canals

Cutoff Canals

 

Cutoff Canals

Connected Canals

You might also notice some other issues fixed in the second image as well. Docks that previously appeared to be floating in the Grand Canal were connected to the land and that extraneous centerline at the lower left was eliminated (sometimes river centerlines are present in OSM data but aren’t at all interesting to a colorer).

FANCY ADDITIONS

I did add in some buildings and other features of interest as time permitted. For example, I drew in the Notre Dame Cathedral interior, whereas the exterior lines were all that showed before. I also drew in a better representation of the Sydney Opera House (which actually doesn’t look very geometric from the bird’s eye view regardless) and as shown in the below image, I drew in a dock or two where I thought it would be interesting and where it hadn’t been shown in the previous version.

Sydney Before

Sydney Before

Sydney After

Sydney After

Okay, in this example, a lot of things actually changed. For one thing, I added cased road lines to the Sydney map instead of just single lines. For another, the dock is added in the lower left corner. A few buildings were added, the map location was adjusted slightly, and overlapping neighborhood and road lines were eliminated.

PARK PATHS Many park paths were changed from simple lines to cased path symbology, as in this instance. Only the main path lines were shown and the water features were added as well.

Central Park Paths Before

Central Park Paths Before

Central Park Paths After

Central Park Paths After

 

IN CONCLUSION I’m hoping that this post is instructive to beginning cartographers in becoming familiar with some of the detailed symbology work that needs to be done to make a map pleasant and in fitting with the audience for the work. Things like whether or not paths and roads should be depicted as single lines or as cased lines with widths. Things like whether or not certain features should be visible or not. Things like fixing the data where needed either by adding in buildings, or taking out neighborhood boundaries, or connecting bridges to the land banks.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

The ability to make a map is great. The fortitude to correct it? Even better!

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Hang tight

July 9th, 2016

*Update* The revision went live in all outlets the week of July 11, 2016!

I’m working furiously on a completely revised and updated version of City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults

cattype

On the importance of rapid information transmittal

June 30th, 2016

While reading this news piece on bitcoin this morning I came across this chart:

Just the top portion of the chart

Just the top portion of the chart

Since this was some quick pre-work reading on a subject I follow from time to time but don’t study in-depth, I spent only about 5 seconds looking at the chart before I determined that it would be too much effort to understand. I thought to myself, “I know this chart is probably revealing some amazing truths and is well-done, because I trust the New York Times Graphics Department, but I’m not going to take the time to understand it this morning.”

This was a huge reminder to myself that this is precisely the way that 99% of map readers react to complex maps that they see. The lesson? If you want the majority of the readers to understand something at a glance, keep it as close to a normal, popularly familiar, map style as possible. But, you say that you are a leader in the cartography field who’s job it is to come up with fancy new visualizations?

While it may be true that only the lead dog sees the landscape (hat tip Alan Weiss), the lead dog has to navigate and interpret that landscape for its pack. Likewise, a cartography leader needs to make sure that his/her followers understand the map quickly and clearly.

Here’s a map-based example. I think that the map shown here is a little too strange to invite a quick interpretation for the reader overall. Furthermore, the legend info pertaining to the colors is actually found in the article text whereas it would have been nice to have it also accompanying the map:

Tax map

Tax map

 

(Please note: I never want to discourage innovation nor do I ever want to discourage individuals from publishing for fear of getting critiques like this. While I am critiquing the amount of time it takes to interpret this map I do like the varying transparency, the subtle background color, the thin white lines to unobtrusively denote county boundaries, and the use of orange as a counterpoint to the blue. There are many successful things about the map and I always think to myself that it could just be me having trouble with the other bits and that there’s a possibility everyone else completely understands this thing at a moment’s glance. TLDR: this is just one persons opinion and likely to be wrong.)

So what do you do if you still want to use one or many innovative visualization techniques in your cartography?

Answer 1: That’s perfectly okay if the map can be interpreted very quickly despite the fact that it looks different than what we’re used to. Hint.fm/wind comes to mind as an excellent example of a new technique that was actually easier to understand than any prior techniques for showing wind.

Answer 2: Leave the more complex cartographic innovation for media that invites longer perusal such as, but not by any means limited to:

  • Map focused books
  • The Sunday magazine instead of the regular paper
  • Scholarly articles
  • Twitter map nerd feeds
  • Advanced conference tracks
  • Github repositories
  • Educational tutorials

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Books at the EsriUC Store

June 27th, 2016

As most geogeeks are aware, the Esri UC is happening this week. I’m not there this year but thankfully someone has already sent me a pic of City Maps on the shelves at the Esri UC Store at the conference. So nice to see! Even if it is right next to some gagged guy underneath a horse. :)

 

Two of my other books are reportedly on sale there as well. I’ll post any other pics of the books at the Esri UC here if anyone cares to send them. :)

Edited 6/27/2016 to add: I heard that City Maps is now sold out at the EsriUC Store. I haven’t heard if Cartographer’s Toolkit or GIS Cartography are sold out or not.

Edited 6/29/2016 to add another pic I somehow missed from a few days ago:

Edited 6/29/2016 12:07pm MT:

Edited 6/30/2016 to add:

Color Critique Will Always Be There For You

June 23rd, 2016

A client warned me the other day: “I like the color schemes but just so you know these bosses have a way of changing colors, it’s the way we work around here.”

I said, “Right, that’s completely expected but thank you for the heads-up because it means that I will take a few minutes of extra time at our next demo to explain that these colors come from a previously published paper on the subject. That way if they do decide that the palette should be changed, they’ll be aware that it will be different from the published standard.”

I added, “Having been in the cartography business for 17 years, I’ve learned that debate over color is part of the career. Sometimes even for the better.”

beaker

Set designer: “Let’s make Beaker’s hair a little more orangish.”


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Cartographer's Toolkit

Map Making Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration