Map Innovation, Map Derivation

Let’s talk a bit more about yesterday’s post. There was some criticism that the maps showcased there were not innovative. Someone even claimed you could find those mapping techniques in traditional cartography how-to books. To that I say: hogwash! And also: of course!

You see, while those maps do indeed contain a healthy dose of innovative technique, we can never say that something is 100% unique, because all art is derivative. It’s the extent to which something deviates from the norm that puts it into the breakthrough category. Let’s show this using the examples from that controversial post:

From Twitter NYC A Multilingual Social City by Stamen (carto by James Cheshire) This map shows the location and language of tweets in New York City. The derivative: dot colors by category. The innovative: no background map, the spatial context is implied by the location of the dots themselves.

Average Commute Times by the WNYC Data News Team This map shows commute times, based on census statistics, in the U.S. The derivative: choropleth color gradient of a single hue to denote low and high values. The innovative: pink is an unusual and refreshing choice for any map feature in modern cartography, let alone the dominant feature.

Women’s Political Rights Around the World by LUSTlab This map shows the state of women’s rights in the world over time. The derivative: time slider, pop-up information, world focus. The innovative: a generalization scheme so extreme as to verge on comical. My opinion would have been to generalize less, but they’ve obviously pushed the boundaries here…so to speak.

Fata Morgana by Damon Zucconi This map shows place names in standard cartographic style, in a webmap. The derivative: standard cartographic place names; typographic maps are not brand-new. The innovative: no basemap for context, just the place names; typographic maps are still within the purview of neocartography.

Comments are closed.