MapCarte 205/365: Manchester Music Map by CreativeLynx c.2002



Making a map to support rourism requires two important design considerations – the content must be unique and speak to the audience; and the design must be attention-grabbing. Manchester’s music scene arguably provides the first in abundance given the number of iconic musicians and bands that hail from the area. Creative lynx came up with an aesthetic that did the second job.

This fantastic cartoon-styled map throws geography and scale out of the window. It’s useless as a tool for navigation but, instead, it emphasises key spaces of historical significance to some band or other. Places, buildings, venues and meeting spots are located. These are the important places for this map.  It goes beyond that by positioning the musicians in amongst the city itself, showing them taking ownership of Manchester and in so doing, defining its cultural relevance. Interest is encouraged through varying sizes of the main characters so you are invited to go beyond the larger figures to find and figure out who the smaller ones are.

A heavily stylized tourist map that supports the intended purpose and to develop a particular sense of place.

MapCarte 204/365: NYC Taxis: A day in the life by Chris Whong, 2014

MapCarte204_NYCtaxiClick image to view web map

Increasing access to unique and intriguing datasets is driving a massive map-making movement. People are exploring data in many interesting ways and occasionally developing some creative cartographic products in the online medium particularly. Chris Wong has done just that. Taking a dataset of different New York taxi cab fares he’s processed and manipulated the data into a form that can be mapped in a compelling way.

Notwithstanding any dataset such as this is prone to some level of uncertainty and the fact that Wong took some cartographic license (the actual routes mapped are based on the Google API suggestion, not a GPS tracklog for instance) it’s the mapping that is really quite impressive.

By taking a single journey we are pairing the data right back from the millions of cab journeys. It helps show how real each cab is and how it travels independently of the rest. Our imagination can extrapolate to the whole and it’s a good way to personalize a theme when mapping. It overcomes the generalisations that must be made to make any sense when mapping the entire dataset.

The mapping is clean and intuitive. The yellow/black theme aligns with the taxi cab colours and creates a sleek, modern look and feel with high contrast between components and good use of ancillary colours and transparency. The hovering data panels provide cumulative information on time and running totals. The graph shows the linear pattern of fare accumulation. The movement of the map is particularly creative as the focal point (the cab) remains central in the map view as the map pans and the journeys are traced. This gives an excellent way of holding the gaze while the map does the work rather than relying on the user to pan and zoom around. It reduces effort on the part of the user who can simply sit back and view the moving map.

A beautiful web map in terms of design and the marrying of form and function.

MapCarte 203/365: Mt Fuji, by anon, 1830



There’s very little that is genuinely new in cartography yet with such massive technological advances we see reinvention all the time. So it’s always useful to keep an eye on our cartographic heritage. It informs what we do because we can tease out best practice; and it shows us what has gone before so we can ensure we give credit where due.

This stunningly beautiful map of Mt Fiji from the early 1800s gives us much food for thought. The detail of the mountainscape and, in particular, the use of a side elevation to create the appearance of molehills was used earlier but used here to great effect. The fact the Fuji itself is given prominence by being depicted in the round, rather than an elevation works well and shows how different graphical treatments to similar phenomena can be used to classify importance.

There’s a fine mix of planimetric and plan oblique in the work with a coastline shown using a vignette and some sense of routes across the landscape. The surrounding text works well in the traditional vertical orientation.

Overall, a beautiful historical map. Simple.

MapCarte 202/365: Escape Routes by Torgeir Husevaag, 2010-11




Designed as an exhibition piece in 2011, Escape routes and it’s counter piece Meeting Points offer an artistic interpretation of paths of movement through an unnamed city. The reason for escaping is not made clear so the maps are esoteric and unexplained in terms of a clear purpose yet cartographically they create an interesting aesthetic.

The first map, Escape Routes, plots the paths of 32 directions around a compass rose from the centre of the city showing the different characteristics of the escape route through symbology. The paths are defined as: Up to an hour. Wintertime. Moving discreet, not getting noticed, not running, staying cool. No trespassing. Keeping outdoors, avoiding ski tracks, deep snow, thin ice. No parkour. Avoid trouble. Again, these are somewhat obscure but point to the way in which the paths have been classified. Two are picked out for special attention – the first that shows the farthest you can reach in an hour; the second the path most likely to put off anyone pursuing. The detail in the symbology of lines created with dots and other small geometric marks shows clear differentiation in type.

The second map, Meeting Points, shows through increasingly sized circles the various places that one could meet at different times along the one hour journey. Each circle acts as a lens through which the otherwise obscured street network is displayed. This effect guides the eye to only those parts of a complex street network relevant to the theme. It focuses attention and declutters the otherwise noisy image.

An artistic interpretation of map form and function that creates an interesting aesthetic with practical cues which more purposeful cartography might borrow.

More images (but not much more detail) on the artists web site here.

MapCarte 201/365: One dot for every Starbucks by David Yanofsky, 2014


Maps of point based data are all the rage in this open data landscape since most open datasets offer the location of a phenomena by latitude and longitude along with one or more characteristics. Often it’s just a location but that can still reveal insights when analysed and mapped effectively. A data set of all known locations of Starbucks may seem rather tedious because aren’t they on every street corner? Chris Meller took the data and David Yanofsky began mapping it revealing such gems as the location in the USA that is farthest from a Starbucks (Circle, in northeast Montana some 192 miles from the nearest Starbucks). There are 210 locations in Manhattan (slightly more than 6 per square mile) and if you drive from Boston to Philadelphia you’re never more than 10 miles from a Starbucks.

Beyond the factoids, Yanofsky has created some simple yet effective maps to display his findings, such as a map of the USA with a single dot for each Starbucks that pretty much reflects a map of population density. Of more interest here is the small multiples example where he uses a circle of the same size and scale to display the pattern of Starbucks locations in 25 major world cities. The map is well balanced with a 5 x 5 grid of maps. Colours are stark with a Starbuck’s green dot signifying locations against a black background almost like a radar screen.

The map may be simple yet what Yanofsky does he does well. He maintains clarity through symbology, shows a single theme well and uses layout to create a balanced structure. Above all, he is showing comparisons so his maps are each projected properly and use a consistent scale. This is paramount in any mapping application that purports to support visual comparison. Without the correct structure the message can be severely distorted.

Explore a full write-up and more of Yanofsky’s maps in his cartographic guide to Starbuck’s global domination here

MapCarte 200/365: Breathing City by Joey Cherdarchuk, 2014

Making maps is all about taking a dataset and making something meaningful from it – something that communicates a finding or a result, or something that speaks to an issue or an emotion. In our democratised mapping world, more people than ever are taking interesting datasets and attempting to produce something map-like. All too often the results leave us frustrated but every now and then a perfect storm creates something magical.

Using a detailed dataset of how Manhattan’s population occupies space during their at home and at work phases of the day, Joey Cherdarchuk could have just plotted it using a standard technique. That wasn’t enough. Using the shape of Manhattan as an inspiration he envisaged a lung…a breathing lung that inhaled and exhaled according to the time of day. The data is animated as the map remains static so we get a breathing city and a breathing map. Adding a simple line graph that mimics a cardiograph monitor simply tops off the combination of visuals, metaphor and thinking that makes this map something special. Using a black background and simple text components frames the work well.

The data is unremarkable…but the map produced makes it intriguing and brings it to life.

Details of how Cherdarchuk constructed it are on his blog here.


MapCarte 199/365: Gifu by Hatsusaburo Yoshida, c.1940


Long before satellite imagery and aerial photography, cartographers had to imagine the landscape and explore different ways of representing the world. Hatsusaburo Yoshida trained as a textile designer but is well known for his spectacular birds eye view maps, produced in the early to mid 1900s.

His work was informed by tireless local surveys which included not only measurements of the landscape but meetings with local people to gain a sense of what’s important to an area. This provided a way of developing a sense of what to include or omit on the map.

Yoshida’s maps are vibrant and colourful. They sow mountains as key features represented almost in aspect while much of the other detail is presented in perspective. There’s an abstract feel to the symbology and the clean lines used to represent real world features yet he manages to maintain a certain realism to the portrayal. The textual components use a billboard technique that lifts labels off the map which is a clever technique for this style of mapping. His skies and clear, cloudless sunsets illuminate the map to give it a crystal clear depiction unencumbered by haze or clouds.

Beautiful hand drawn maps showing the very best of design and representation. More examples of Yoshida’s work can be seen here.

MapCarte 198/365: Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, 16th century



There’s something about hand drawn maps that draws cartophiles in. They more than often demonstrate the art of cartography simply because every mark has to be carefully thought through. This map is the first detailed map of Scandinavia and as a hanf drawn map it’s an absolute gem.

The symbology and colours, the typography and layout are second to none and demonstrate the very best of the art of cartography. Many of the defaults of modern software do not give this sort of final aesthetic yet with a little knowledge it’s not rocket science to replicate this sort of map.



The detail and typography is exceptional and the graphical techniques for different land types is particularly impressive. Trees as mimetic symbols and patterns fills for the water bodies are especially well designed.

A lovely historical map that gives us strong pointers to how we might implement similar techniques on contemporary efforts.

MapCarte 197/365: Tokyo by Benjamin Sack, 2014



Perspective illustrations of cities and landscapes have always been maps that inspire. They tend to be highly illustrative and show places in detail. This example of Tokyo by Benjamin Sack is both typical of the genre but also unique in that it takes the rendering of the environment to an incredibly detailed level.

The map uses a typical perspective view which incorporates foreshortening. While creating difficulties in measuring from place to place it’s a highly effective way of rendering an image that mimics the human point of view. What Sack does well is use shadow and depth of ink to make the background darker. This creates an illusion of depth in the image. The foreground water uses some subtle texture to create a more interesting image.

MapCarte197_tokyo_detailOverall, a beautiful map that uses light and dark to great effect and which illustrates the power of black and white maps.


MapCarte 196/365: Trees, cabs and crime by Shawn Allen, 2009



Three colour print technology is based on the principles of the subtractive colour model whereby magenta, cyan and yellow pigments are combined to create pigments that absorb certain wavelenghts of light. We begin with a white background and mixing gives us a full palette of subtractive colours.

Why not use it to create a trivariate thematic map which illustrates the density and overlap of certain features as they occur in the environment. This map uses equally sized circle symbols representing three separate features in San Francisco. While they possibly cannot be said to correlate to one another in a causal sense we get a clear idea that trees signify a particular type of landscape, that cabs tend to concentrate in the north east and the downtown area and that crimes occur throughout. Interestingly, the mixing of the subtractive colours gives us reds, blues and greens showing the predominance of two of the variables…and occasionally some black showing the presence of all three in close proximity.

Crime tends to appear on east-west streets rather than north-south but the main outcome of the map is to see the city through a different lens through subtractive blending.

A neat reworking of a well established technique that creates a visually interesting map and one which perhaps has further utility.

A web map version can be seen here.

Ed notes…details here.