MapCarte 293/365: Atlas of infectious diseases by Oregon State University, 2014


Most web maps tend to be based on a single theme. They exist behind a URL and they rarely sit in a context. We visit the map, we see it, we leave it. There are few products that have attempted to compile a digital set of maps into a coherent atlas and presented as an application. The atlas of infectious diseases does just that and is all the more remarkable because it was designed and produced as a student project at Oregon State university.

The atlas is designed for the iPad as a downloadable app (though a static version containing the maps is also available as a PDF download). The atlas showcases a range of infectious diseases using strong graphics, designed for digital display with simplified map shapes, bare basemaps and highly contrasting thematic overlays. These maps are designed to communicate quickly and efficiently.


The maps hang together as a coherent whole even though they show distinct subject matter. their use of colour goes a long way to ensuring continuity across the pages. navigation is intuitive and there is a good use of supplementary graphical material and textural components.

MapCarte293_healthatlas_ebolaThe map types vary enough to maintain interest but never as a way of simply creating unnecessary differences. the map types support each theme well. The atlas builds a strong picture of the history of infectious disease as well as a contemporary assessment.

Design of digital atlases needs a different mindset than that of a more comprehensive print version. They need to be simpler in terms of the complexity of visuals (though not simplistic), contrast needs to be well managed across each page and there needs to be sufficient interest to encourage people to ‘turn the page’. As an exercise in creating a modern cartographic product it’s perfect for student engagement. What we have here is a benchmark for how students can design and produce a high quality product using modern design and authoring tools.

More details can be found at the atlas web site here.


MapCarte 149/365: Mt Everest in 3D by 3D RealityMaps, 2011


For cartographic purists there’s very little that matches a beautiful planimetric topographic map of a region. In many respects these are the maps that define the art and science of cartography because they are the standard-bearers for how we graphically describe the world around us. Those that are capable of crafting a beautiful topographic map have given us some wonderful, rich, detailed and beautiful examples. Often, the most visually impressive are of mountainous areas which demand that cartographers tackle the issue of elevation and relief. This is an art form in its own right.

However, new technologies afford us different ways to view the world and in many of these remote, often highly dangerous, areas different approaches to data capture and map design are giving us new maps and new ways of seeing. Here, 3D RealityMaps have flown small planes over Mount Everest and filmed the landscape using a 3D camera. The captured footage allows researchers to build a 3D computerised model of Everest to 15cm resolution which can then be viewed through a downloadable app.

The model can be downloaded to explore allowing you to wander around Everest and follow many of the famous climbing routes, base camps and weather stations. The images are crisp and clear and have been expertly stiched together to create a seamless model of the mountain and its surroundings. The project also makes good use of satellite derived data to build a range of different components in the final map including WorldView-2, RapidEye, Landsat and ASTER. Some of this data was combined to provide surrounding coverage or to build a detailed terrain model to drape the primary imagery. Labels and annotated routes add to the detail of the work and enable the user to retrieve context to go with the pretty pictures. Photorealistic quality models and unrestricted navigation through a mountain region is made possible through the app.

This is modern surveying used to create a modern, engaging product. It’s a far cry to ground survey and planimetric mapping but it provides us with a way of looking at such a place that a traditional topographic map cannot similarly achieve. That’s not to say it top trumps topographic maps. It’s different. It adds to the canon of cartography.

You can explore and download the app at 3D RealityMaps here.