Cartography

CARTOGRAPHY — the discipline of making maps — has a very long and rich history. It’s tools and techniques have been well developed over hundreds of years, arguably thousands of years. Today, mapping is experiencing a clear ascendancy, with numerous (digital) tools enabling the mediation of all kinds of spatially-referenced data, by almost anyone.

This resurgence is made possible by the increasing number of readily available (democratised) tools for the practice of mapping, such as Mapbox, MapTiler, Leaflet, Kartograph, CARTO and numerous other libraries and frameworks. We also have access to unprecedented levels of data, often projected on top of Google Maps and the open source project, OpenStreetMap.

This post is not attempting to define or summarise cartography or cartographic practice, but simply to highlight a vital role for cartography in professional practice and society in general. It’s very hard to gain an education in cartography these days. Fields such as GIS and similar only concern themselves with the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of established theory, techniques and practice, so there is a worry that centuries of accumulated knowledge may eventually disappear. Fortunately, there are still strong national and international bodies dedicated to cartography that may prevent this doomsayer viewpoint. In the UK, there is the British Cartographic Society; internationally, there is the International Cartographic Association. Most countries have there own organisations, so investigate.

It has become clear that there is significant transformation taking place and it’s been necessary to (re)define cartography over and over again as technology advances. It’s become fundamental to many new disciplines and fields such as spatial information design, communicative environments, landscape urbanism and geo-visualisation. However, many seem to have forgone the historical and theoretical lessons of cartography — realising ‘new’ approaches and techniques that are in fact not new at all. We seem to be in age where we can jump from discipline to discipline much more readily than in the past, but do not make the effort to gain enough understanding of that discipline to effectively make use of it in a truly transformative way.

“In a world where more maps are being made than ever before, cartography doesn’t need reinvention; it needs understanding … To many, cartographers just make maps ‘pretty’; they are more concerned with finessing the aesthetics of the map than the need to make a map and publish it.”

—Dr Kenneth Field, ESRI

Cartography is very mis-understood. Public and professional (mis)perception are entrenched in an archaic view of the profession, considering it outmoded and not relevant today, as they see it. It’s harmful to the profession for those who occupy it, becoming map-makers migrated from other disciplines, to try and differentiate themselves with terms such as ‘neo-cartography’ and other attempts to rename what is essentially the same core practice. Embrace the profession! This reinvention is pointless and time-wasting; embrace the profession, learn from it and make some truly outstanding maps. Dr Kenneth Field presents the case, in support of cartography, in more depth. It truly is both an artistic and a scientific profession, and like many professions, there are practicing cartographers with different skillsets and interests, so you get a variety of mapping.

When Jason first trained as a cartographer, he learnt to create maps by hand with rOtring and Staedtler pens, rub-down lettering, self-adhesive tints, patterns and tapes — even scribing film — a very hard technique to master! Modern technology has made workflow so much easier these days, releasing you of most of those tightly constrained production and reproduction restrictions, which often also required very well developed manual skills. More importantly, technology has enabled seemingly endless representational opportunities!

“It’s [still] a great time to be creating maps!”

What maps could Jason produce for you? In a nutshell, anything — just ask. From simple business location maps to complex transport infrastructure networks; decorative rural estate plans to city-wide pedestrian wayfinding maps; and choropleth maps to ‘big data’ map-based visualisations. The maps find homes in books, on street signs and on digital devices. Almost any media can be a substrate for reproduction, from water-proof non-tearing paper to vitreous enamelled metal panels.

Illustreets

No sooner had I picked up on one new online mapping framework, the OS Open Zoomstack, than another appears! Illustreets follows the usual formula, but with each new framework that gets released

OS Open Zoomstack

The world of online mapping frameworks moves apace! Now, even the monolithic mapping organisation, the Ordnance Survey, is involved. In July, they launched OS Open Zoomstack, providing vector tiles of their open data themes.

Hotel Visitor Map

Development work for a hotel visitor map, unrealised. Simplified approach to make the most of a small A5 printed format. The design reflected brand identity guidelines and needed to be dual language.

Town Planning Support

Throughout his career Jason has provided supporting services to chartered town and country planning companies and organisations. This has included everything from simple red line plans through to Design and Access Statement documents.

Visual Thinking

Having been embedded within graphic design and cartography for 30 years now, one recurring disappointment for me is the amount of ‘new’ conceptual and theoretical thinking, and object creation, that really is not new.

kepler.gl

Uber—who would thought—have released kepler.gl, an open-source geospatial toolbox. It’s designed to provide the easiest way of visualising geospatial data and gaining useful insights.

Beyond HS2

This project, commissioned by Greengauge 21, required a mix of maps, infographics and DTP to create a 200-page technical report which offers a comprehensive view of what Britain’s railway should look like by the middle of the century.

Cartograms

Not to be confused with Mapbox’s nonsensical hijacking of the term for creating colour styles, cartograms are extraordinary map types. The relaunch of Worldmapper in April 2018 celebrates this form of mapping.

Google Earth

When it was first released 16 years ago, it was an incredible virtual experience to be able to travel around the globe and look at anywhere in a level of detail previously not seen, and it still is today!

National Geographic

Since the very first issue in 1888, the National Geographic magazine has been the benchmark for quality researched articles supported by well-crafted graphics.

South African Game Reserve

A land owner in South Africa commissioned Jason to design and produce a map that depicted their 27,000 ha game reserve.

Goldsmiths University

Goldsmiths, University of London, commissioned Jason to create a new campus map and sign artwork

Square Up Mural

Square Up contacted Jason for ideas to decorate a reception wall for a new London HQ.

Heightfields

There is always an aspect of work that emerges out of error, experimentation and/or serendipity.

Bay Area Bike Share

Leading wayfinding practitioners, City ID, asked Jason to help develop the cartography for the Bay Area Bike Share project in San Francisco, USA.

Big Data Visualisation

Visualisations of ‘big data’ have been commonplace over the last few years, though their is still much debate to be had about the value of many of them beyond their visually interesting presentation.

A Monitor for a Cartographer?

Screen estate and colour are very important to a cartographer. Maps can be any size from A6 to more than 5m×5m square.

Ham & Petersham

Nick Avery Design commissioned Jason to produce a supporting map for a book designed for self-publishing author, Vanessa Fison.

An Open-source World

Over the last few years we have seen the release of numerous mapping platforms/frameworks to allow the manipulation and representation of open-source mapping and other spatial data.

OS Maps – the App

Recently, the Ordnance Survey (OS) updated an app for both mobile and desktop devices that utilises their 1:25,000 Explorer and 1:50,000 Landranger maps—classic OS mapping at it’s best.

Swiss National Mapping

Swiss topography has long been regarded as the epitome of this form of mapping, often characterised by the iconic hill shading techniques of the late Eduard Imhof, professor of cartography at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Derby Riverside

derby01_lrg

Engaged by Derby City Council (DCC), Jason has designed and produced the mapping for four new wayfinding signs.

Relief Shading, Part I

As we seem to be moving in to presentational modes where 3D (mapping) is becoming ever more commonplace, enabled by software and hardware advances, it is relevant to look back

Walks of Churchill Guide

Jason was commissioned by Nick Avery Design to design and produce two maps to be used in a walking tour guide on Winston Churchill.

Zombies, Run! Board Game

A rather unusual request arrived from Six to Start, an independent games developer and entertainment company based in London.

Samlesbury Hall

Jason was engaged by Samlesbury Hall Trust, who maintain and run the historic house and grounds in Lancashire of the same name, to re-design and produce a new visitor plan and accompanying floorplans.

Wayfinding Map, UAE

Jason was engaged by Progress Creative, based in Dubai, to assist them develop the pedestrian mapping for a new mixed development west of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Waddesdon Manor

Engaged by The Rothschild Foundation, Jason was asked to re-design and produce a new visitor map for their impressive and extensive National Trust property and grounds in Buckinghamshire, Waddesdon Manor.