Archive for July, 2013

The Map Gallery, Yay and Also, Meh

The winners of the 2013 Esri User Conference map gallery contest are showcased here. It’s definitely a good place look for some inspiration. Looking at the categories alone reveals how many types of maps exist today:

  • Analytic
  • Series or atlas – in-house
  • Series or atlas – press
  • Single map – in-house
  • Single map – press
  • Single map small format
  • Data integration (infographic)
  • Software integration
  • Student
  • Unique
  • Instructional
Except for the student type, each requires different design considerations, some (software integration) probably a lot more than others.
I got to wander through the map gallery this year, and while there were many great maps, there were also an astonishing number of maps that just didn’t seem up to par for such an auspicious conference. On the one hand, it means that there is a lot of room yet for improvement. When that improvement finally happens, we’re going to see these map messages disseminated much more widely. On the other hand, it’s good to know there’s still a bit of egalitarianism in terms of the messages. We don’t have just the design-minded displaying their maps, we have everyone. Now everyone just needs to step up their game.


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Friday Roundup

*Check out PetersonGIS’s wetlands analysis for Save the Poudre last year if you want to do some heavy thinking.

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In Mapping, Don’t Let All Your Hard Work Go Unnoticed

A few weeks ago I was having a meeting with a client. At the beginning of the meeting he was telling me about his recent efforts in home renovation as well as the fact that he’s been doing the buy/fix/sell thing for quite a while. He pointed out that he was in the throws of the hard work, the work that nobody notices that you did including the clean-up, structural modifications, electric, and plumbing. He intimated that it’s a bit difficult to have done months of back-breaking work on that aspect of the renovations when all that anyone will notice will be the pendent lamp that you hung in the kitchen. :)

Well, it just so happened that Kris and I had built Dale a great application the previous year that was founded on sound coding principals and using scalable technology so that we could easily deploy to mobile applications just as soon as we were ready for that part of the work. It took a bit longer this way, and certainly required more effort, than if we had gone an easier route. It is always important to us to get the back end right, even if it isn’t “seen” by the client. I pointed out the parallel to Dale:

Just as in home renovation, where the real structural, back-breaking work often goes unseen and unappreciated, so it goes in mapping and programming: while it’s absolutely crucial to the success of the project, in the end, your critics will question you not on the month of data gathering and database wrangling that you put in, but on whether or not you should have used fuchsia instead of the salmon color.

The lesson? Always state clearly the amount of effort put forth, the reasons for that effort, the benefits of doing it the “hard way”. If you don’t, they’ll never know.

One of Dale’s projects:



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The Map Critic’s Ego, A Warning!

In cartography, there are a few perfervid professionals who decry all newcomers with what amounts to public shaming of their “woefully” inadequate understanding of geography, design, projections, and the pronunciation of choropleth. I’m not exactly a saint in this arena, as I’ve done my share of critiques on this blog and elsewhere.

However, when a critique becomes more about the critic’s ego and less and less about bettering the cartography, we cross the line. And it should go without saying that a critique that is aimed at the mapper rather than the map is unproductive and unprofessional.

Critics, too, must always remain humble. Remember, what appears today like a map mess might* be looked at tomorrow as de rigueur.


*I said “might”! Certainly most map messes will remain messes in perpetuity. :)

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A VerySpatial Podcast Interview

Note: From time to time old posts are resurfaced on the blog. This one, from July 2012, references my interview with Jesse Rouse of the VerySpatial Podcast crew, covering the content of and inspiration behind my book: Cartographer’s Toolkit. You should also check out Frank’s Esri User Conference Plenary live blog, I’ve got it in the cue to read on the treadmill tonight.


My recent interview with Jesse Rouse on the VerySpatial Podcast, starting at about minute 8:

Alternatively, click over to VerySpatial to hear it.


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The Week: A Wrap-up

  • If you didn’t read The Economist this week then you missed out on a great two page article on infographics titled “Winds of change” and—you guessed it—featuring the Viégas and Wattenberg Wind Map as well as new books by Nathan Yau (@flowingdata), Simon Rogers, and James Ball and Valentine D’Efilippo. Near the end of the article we have admonitions not to let graphics obscure information and not to create “visual gibberish”. If you didn’t read it in print, not to worry, you can read the article here.

  • The Esri UC was a great conference. My most popular tweet for the week wound up being “Maps reveal patterns that would otherwise be concealed.”– James Fallows #esriucI didn’t set out to tweet the plenary events but occasionally there was a quote that I just had to tweet. and the Roosevelt High School students were the surprise hit, captivating the audience. Speaking of the audience, have you ever been in a room with 10,000+ chairs?

I picked up one of the Globe People at the Esri store to help out @Ladyofthestars. Her aim is to get pictures of it all around the world, from people who will post them on twitter and elsewhere with the #globeman hashtag. Hopefully this pic, taken as I was leaving the San Diego airport yesterday, helps the cause:

Speaking of the Esri store, it was great to see my two favorite cartography books on display…

  • In other news, I was in my first running race of any kind and attended my first ever professional sporting event. Never mind that I was slow in the former and had no idea what was going on in the latter, but just as in mapping, you have to start somewhere…


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